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Story ID:4841
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Butte Montana USA
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Our Tangled Webs
by Kathe Campbell

Thoughts about a little scrape a grandson had gotten himself into, I laughed to myself recalling how stalwart I stood before my own dear mother back in the simpler times.

Sir Walter Scott couldn't have said it better in 1808 - "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

At about five or six I swore like a trooper that I had always owned the red beret hair clip in my dresser drawer. Questioning where it came from, why would she doubt it? Easy, for as an only child she knew my room and it's contents better than I did. As if petty theft wasn't bad enough, I stuck to my guns over and over while she tried tirelessly to wring the truth out of me.

Would I tearfully sit in my room nursing butterflies, contemplating the tangling of one sorry story atop another - or confess? Not on your life! My God, but I was a stubborn kid, all the while wishing she'd give it up so I could go outdoors and play.

Sharp wallops with a green willow switch or the pancake turner were not considered corporal punishment in the thirties, though the thought petrified kids of my generation. I figured I'd be showing off little red badges of courage across the back of my legs whether I owned up or not. The fact was, woeful wails filled summer breezes up and down our street often as bottoms were paddled over an irate mother's lap. Even our grade school principal applied a ruler across derrieres and knuckles in that god-awful inner sanctum she called her office.

As always, mother smiled and kissed dad, then served one of her exquisite repasts at six-o'clock sharp that evening. While she washed the dishes and I dried, sharp glances pierced my very soul, goading me to fess up. Beautiful as she was, how I loathed her pressed lips and foreboding stare as if lording it over all my young transgressions.

Rather than copping a plea, I wandered into dad's den where he was fiddling with his stamp collection, and climbed onto his lap to come clean.

"Problems, Punk?" as he lovingly called me - only this time the label stuck. He hugged me tight and engaged in one of his sermons about honesty until at long last I felt sweet kisses on my cheek in my own bed. Seventy-two years later, I still recall the shame, hoping to never see that red beret again - and I never did.

How could I imagine that tales of my childhood might light up fires to come back to haunt me? It seemed like the sagas of my humorous and misspent youth served as glowing invitations that flared up, then backfired in my own brood's little ploys. Despite their own shenanigans, never in my wildest dreams could I imagine resorting to an angry hand or paddle. Well . . . maybe a time or two.

While changing sheets in my son's room one morning, I spied an unfamiliar shiny matchbox fire truck perched proudly atop his dresser. Knowing his four-year-old passion for fire trucks of any size, I asked him where it came from.

"Oh, I don't know - in the bottom of my toy box I guess," he casually chirped. I'd have probably accepted that as God's truth if the packaging and price tag weren't leering up at me from his waste basket.

A huge let-down consumed me as my red beret episode came flooding back. I could almost detect little wheels spinning wildly deep in the recesses of my son's big green eyes as I drew myself up tall and judicious, but not too frightful as my grilling commenced.

"Are you sure you weren't playing with this toy in the drug store yesterday, and maybe you forgot to put it back when we left?" I executed with utmost tact, leaving a gaping hole for my child to crawl through.

"Oh, now I remember - this fire truck belongs to Bobby. He said I could play with it while their family goes on vacation," as the tangled web trapped and fatally devoured his fib.

Upon entering the drugstore my son tearfully returned the prized fire truck with his dobber down and a chagrinned, faint apology. The stern-faced manager felt compelled to issue a long spiel on the evils of shoplifting followed by another shorter and amplified version from dad that evening.

Some fifty years hence, my little boy has retired as a fine lawman, and still remembers the red fire truck as well as another boomeranging event staged by his sisters on a lazy summer afternoon.

Trying to be a prudent mom, I had refused my young daughters money for a candy run to the corner store explaining that too many sweets bring on bad teeth and the dreaded collywobbles. It was as though I was talking to the wall as my little lecture fell on deaf ears, and the girls set out to contrive subterfuge. Never ever taking coins from my pocketbook without asking - because mothers know their change purses by heart - the two larcenous little souls sat on the back porch cooking up other duplicity.

As I gardened, they snuck into their big brother's closet and liberated a good part of his prized coin collection, then promptly made tracks up the alley. Both of their chocolate-glutted tummies backfired in the form of two very sick puppies that night.

Valued lessons still befall our grandchildren as they watch their forty-seven and forty-nine-year-old mothers still replacing their uncle's vintage coins each Christmas.

Oh what tangled webs we weave . . .