The entire time my sister Lindy and I were growing up we participated in a sport known as “walking on egg shells.” This sport is not played in the Olympics, but if it were, my sister and I would have won the Gold medals thanks to our constant practice of the sport. From a very early age, I learned to walk on egg shells whenever Mother was around. It was the sport of walking on egg shells that led to me “playing” with some Coke bottles when I was two years old and that is why, even after the bottle broke, I did not tell my mother.
How and why I was “playing” with Coke bottles is a very different story. Suffice it to say that a two year old playing with empty Coke bottles on a hard wood floor was not the greatest of ideas. At age two, I was already aware of “Mother’s Law” which stated that she did not wish to be disturbed when she was “sleeping” in the middle of the day.
And of course when I say “sleeping” in the middle of the day, I mean she was passed out, high on booze or medication. And of course she certainly did not wish to be awakened from her stupor with any bad news such as the fact that her daughter had stepped on a broken Coke bottle and was now bleeding profusely. Early on, I learned to go to my dad and I learned that he would be the problem-solver.
One Easter, my sister and I each received a little broom and dust-pan (which Mother was probably wishing we would put to good use). Anyway, on that Easter morning, Lindy and I were up early discovering all the Easter eggs the Easter bunny had hidden around our home. We peeled the shells away and began eating what we liked of the eggs–the whites.
Based on our pea-brained, not fully-developed toddler mentality, we chose to discard the egg yolks and their shells on the floor. After a number of eggs were consumed, one of us swept up the yolks and shells with our new broom. Then back to our consumption of the egg whites and our chucking of the yolks and egg shells onto the floor.
Never mind waiting for our parents to partake of the eggs with us: Lindy and I were very independent little three and five year old children. That is one of the mixed blessings of having an extremely negligent parent like Mother who expected us to be able to fend for ourselves before we were even in kindergarten.
We were having a wonderful time when all of a sudden a shriek came out of the hallway.
We heard Mother shout:
What are you two doing?
We explained about the eggs, the broom and the little dustpan. Actually, we were quite pleased both with our honesty and our followup of cleaning up the mess we made with our lovely new broom and dustpan sets.
She coldly, bitterly, and angrily replied:
Well, thanks a lot. I love hard-boiled eggs and now there are none left.
The fierce look of recrimination tinged with resentment toward us on her face was scalding. We looked all over, puzzled as children are wont to be but also desperately motivated by Mother’s hurt, angry, bitter statement that started with “Thanks a lot.” We really expected her to either burst out in tears or yell about the “emotional trauma” of being deprived of her allegedly-beloved hard-boiled eggs.
It turned out that, for once in Mother’s life, she was right. All of the eggs had “magically” disappeared, and our sweeping wasn’t all it could have been since we were all actually walking on shards of egg shells the rest of the day.
The rest of our lives, the walking on egg shells we did when with Mother wasn’t literal like this Easter example. Most of the time it was being aware that there were many, many, many subjects that should never be brought up in Mother’s presence. These topics included:
- Fresh fish
- Bismark Puffs
- Fuschia thread
unless you were in the mood to go chasing all over looking for the items. In addition, you should never mention the neighbor lady Lucille Johns because then you would have to listen to fifteen minutes of Mother belaboring the basic point she had; namely:
Oh, I’d love to take the scissors to her hair.
Lucille had a long, full head of hair unlike the short, fine strands that covered Mother’s head. In Mother’s twisted world, the perfect solution would be to hold Lucille down and chop off her long, full head of hair. Now that I think about it, Mother’s fixation on (and resentment toward) my son Taylor’s hair late in her life seems to have been another manifestation of her mane-related issues.
Finally, you were never to insult her cooking skills by asking out loud
What is this stuff?
No, my sister and I both learned to look at whatever strange concoction she had whipped up and either push it around on our plate or try a little taste of the lumpy, unappetizing food and then announce that we had a big test the next day and had to study.
Walking on egg shells meant you never expressed your true feelings and spent most of your time trying to be ignored. It was actually pretty good training for later in life with our stepmother and new family.