We were rotten children, I say that as a near forty year old adult, way past blaming my parents for my problems. We deserved what we got. We drove my mother to the brink and she responded the only way she knew how. These days we laugh about it, and marvel that any of us survived the process, parent and child alike.
Of my three brothers Mark was the most dramatic. And by that I mean he would routinely make mountains out of molehills in any given situation. In a rush, my mother would sometimes grab his wrist and try to hurry him out the door, only to have Mark let all his muscles go limp, flop to the floor, and scream “Oww! Your hurting me!”
My mother was the kind of person who could easily justify her opinions with a list of evidence:
“Clean your room.”
“Well it’s still a mess.”
“Look at this, your right shoe is upside down, and your left shoe is upside down, and the whole room’s a mess.”
Needless to say, the combination often led to conflicts and drama of great proportions, exacerbated by the fact that none of us had any patience. Mark is three years younger than me, and while I don’t remember how old he was, or what he did, my impression is that he was no more than 7 or 8 when my mother had simply had enough. I’m sure it wasn’t just him (Nick and I were no saints), but whatever it was, it pushed her past the tipping point.
“THAT’S IT! Everybody get in the car! We’re going to the orphanage. Mark’s getting out.”
We piled into the car, laughing and giggling, whether from nervous tension or our strange desire for this kind of attention, I don’t really know.
None of us believed her.
About half way there, we started to get the sense that this was no joke. “Hey,” I said, “I think she’s serious.” Mark attempted to make amends, to smooth things over as he’d done so many times before. “I’m sorry Ma, I’ll be good, I promise.”
“Nope. Too late. You had your chance.”
He continued to try to work the situation, to strike a bargin, to make her laugh, all to no avail. Eventually it degenerated into desperate pleading while the rest of us stayed silent, not wanting to draw any attention to ourselves. I looked at my brother knowing I may never see him again, but said nothing for fear of being left at the orphanage too.
When we pulled into the parking lot. Mark was in tears, and I was supressing mine. “OK, get out.” She ordered. Mark would not go willingly. My mother got out, opened his door and physically moved him out. Locked the door and returned to the driver’s side. I don’t really remember all the details at this point, trauma like that tends to be blocked out later in life, but with all the screaming and crying I’m amazed that no one tried to take the children into custody.
I don’t remember what happened to resolve it, I don’t recall how long the “lesson” lasted, but Mark did return home with us, eventually.
We tell the story over family gatherings and at parties now. We laugh about it. Often people think I’m exaggerating or flat out making it up. At a recent party someone said, “Seriously? Has America even had an orphanage since the early 19th century?”
Another person chimed in, “I’ve only ever heard of one, because my mother use to work at one on Long Island.”
“Was it called Little Flower?” I asked.
She dropped her jaw, “How do you know that?”
“Because that’s where this happened, I grew up on Long Island. By any chance, did you mother happen to notice a commotion in the parking lot on a warm summer day in the early 80s?”
Her only response was to put her hand to her mouth and say, “Oh my god, this is a true story.”