by Maria Schulz
After reading my last couple of blog posts, my friend Suzanne asked me the following question:
“How many times were you yelled at by the time you were 9?”
I had to stop and think about that for a minute. To tell you the truth, I had never thought to actually count the number of times, because I don’t have 100 hands and 100 feet. Even then, I probably wouldn’t have enough digits to count the number of times I heard “MARIA” screamed in my general direction.
Yelling was the go-to method of communication in our house. If you didn’t yell, you probably wouldn’t be heard above the din of a TV that was blasting Little Rascals re-runs, Bugs Bunny cartoons, The Wonderful World of Disney, and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, multiplied by the sound of 7 screaming children under the age of 11.
You could really get yelled at for anything at anytime. Did you knock your fork to the ground? You’d get yelled at. Did you drag home a white pit bull that would terrorize and bite the neighborhood children? Yelled at! Did you have the audacity to tell your grandmother that you really didn’t like the dress she bought you (it was brown and you hated the color brown)? Yelled at!
So, to answer that question, I’d have to say, the number of times I was yelled at was: Infinity x Infinity.
Of course, if you ask any of my brothers, their answer would be: NEVER.
To be completely honest, my parents were more prone to scream at my brothers than me. This was probably because:
- Despite the fact that my father and mother told them to stay out of the masonry yard a block away for fear that they would be smothered to death in the giant sand piles, my brothers went there repeatedly
- My parents would greet them at the door, saying, “did you go to the mason’s?” and they would say, “no.”
- One of them would then drag sand throughout the house, exposing them as sand-lovers and liars
But just because I wasn’t interested in diving headfirst into a sand pit and possibly killing myself DOESN’T mean my parents didn’t find anything to yell at me about.
My mother spent the better part of my early years saying: STOP WHINING. I was usually crying and saying things like, “But Mom, Jude just attacked me with a fork,” and “Chris just punched me in the head.” Still, her response was: “MARIA!!! STOP WHINING!”
My father, on the other hand, let us all know that we were to be quiet at all times in his presence. Dad went to school at night and on the days he didn’t, he needed to do homework or study. Plus, I’m sure he just didn’t want to hear any of us, ever.
Do you know how hard it is to stay quiet when you’re under 5 years old, and 6 boys are hitting you, calling you names, or trying to throw you down the basement stairs?
It’s very hard.
In our little corner of the world, all the kids in my neighborhood were only terrified of two people: Mr. H., a Prisoner of War (POW) camp survivor with terrible anger management issues; and my father.
The Moms on the block were the nicest people on earth. You were welcome to pop into their houses at any time for a cold drink, a joke, a chocolate chip cookie, a band-aid, a hug, or a kiss on your forehead. You did so fearlessly, unless, of course, Mr. H. or my Dad was home. Then you just ran to the next house.
Most of the other dads were friendly guys who would fix your bike or help you learn to use a Pogo-stick. We didn’t run away when they were around. However, my Dad had a big, scary, willing to smack you if necessary reputation, and when the kids saw him coming, they always wore that slightly leery look usually reserved for strangers and clowns.
When Dad yelled out the window for one of us, my brothers and I would run towards the house while our neighbors scattered to the four winds, like a bunch of roaches who run for cover when the lights are turned on.
One of my earliest memories of being yelled at happened when a summer thunderstorm suddenly moved in. One minute, I was outside playing with my brothers and all my friends. The next minute, everyone was running for cover while I stood in the middle of the yard and began to do a rain dance.
My mother was calling me from the window, but I remained focused on the task at hand. Didn’t she see how important it was for me to make the rain come down? Thunder boomed, lightning zigzagged in the sky, and still I stood there, dancing.
“MARIA! GET IN THIS HOUSE NOW!” my father roared, as the one or two kids still outside on their bikes rode away as fast as they could.
I moved a little closer to the house and watched the storm move in. I wasn’t afraid, but I should have been. Oh, I don’t mean afraid of the storm. It was nothing compared to the 250 mile-per-hour winds I was about to confront when Hurricane Louie pulled me into the house.
Infuriating my mother was something I also did really well. The first time I really remember her yelling at me was when I found baby powder in the bathroom.
I liked the way the powder felt in my hands, so I sprinkled some in my hair. Then I took the bottle (which was 32 oz. and full) and decided we needed snow.
I shook the bottle up towards the sky and created a truly dazzling winter wonderland, right in the middle of July.
I was so impressed by myself that I began to dance (it was my snow dance) and I shook that powder EVERYWHERE! Not a single surface of that bathroom was powder free. It was AMAZING!
Until…I left a powdery trail from the bathroom all over the basement, and my mother discovered what I’d done.
“MARIA!!!” This scream didn’t sound as happy and delighted as I expected it to; couldn’t she see all my hard work?
I tried to hide under the stairs, but she dragged me back to the bathroom to take a look at what I still considered my snowy masterpiece.
“Look at this mess! It’s going to take me forever to clean this!” My mother said. “I’m going to tell your father, and when he gets home, you are going to get yelled at like you’ve never been yelled at before. You are in SO MUCH TROUBLE!”
OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH! My Dad was going to be brought on board to administer justice! This was problematic because:
- My father often came home from work mad to begin with
- I had seen him administer his particular brand of justice on my brothers’ sorry heads many times before
- I myself had enraged him once or twice and knew how much damage his hands could do (think Hurricane Louie)
I tried to help my mother clean up the powder, but she was so incensed that all she kept saying was, “Just you wait until your father gets home!” She seemed oddly thrilled by the prospect that I would get my hide tanned, so I finally took cover under the stairs to ponder my fate.
For the rest of the day, I wrung my hands and paced. I only came out from under the stairs to eat (you have to have priorities) while “he’s going to kill me” rang in my head.
I was hoping my Mom would make spaghetti and meatballs, because if I was given a choice for a last meal, that would’ve been it.
When my Dad finally came home that night, I heard my mother give him a litany of my powdery crimes.
“Maria!” my father yelled. “Come over here.”
I trudged out from under the stairs as if I was about to meet my executioner.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” Dad said.
I said, “Hold on,” and ran back into the bathroom for the empty powder container. I rushed back to my father and then the words all poured out of me: I wanted to create snow. And you know what? One of the best ways to do that was to do a snow dance. So, I demonstrated my Happy Snow Day Dance for my father.
As I danced, sang, and pretended to throw imaginary snow everywhere, a miracle happened: my father began to laugh. In fact, Dad laughed so hard, I thought he was going to cry. I wasn’t sure if this was good or not, so I just kept dancing. He was beside himself with laughter.
My mother, on the other hand, was not amused. “Louie, aren’t you going to reprimand her?” She said. “It took me hours to clean up that bathroom!”
My father dabbed the corners of his eyes, wiped the smile from his face and exchanged it for his patented angry face. With his forehead stretched tight and his eyes narrowed to slits, he said through gritted teeth: “Do you understand why you must never make snow in the house again?” I could tell he was trying really hard not to laugh.
I wanted to reply: “No, not really.” But one look at him and at my mother, and I realized I’d better get with the program if I wanted to live.
“Yes!” I said.
“Good,” my father replied. “Now go away and don’t get your mother mad again. And be quiet.”
I ran out of there like my feet were on fire. I was FREE!
Of course, I went on to get yelled at about a hundred billion times more, probably on that day alone. If you were to factor in my 8 tortured years of Catholic school, you’d probably have a yelling count that would tally up to even more than the stars.
Last Meal Request: Rigatoni & Chicken Meatballs
Nobody – and I mean nobody – made meatballs and sauce like my mother. When you walked through the door after a tough day of dancing in the rain or making snow in the bathroom, the smell of her sauce simmering on the stove made you believe that all was right with the world.
It’s probably too hot for such a heavy meal, so here’s a recipe for Rigatoni with Creamy Tomato Sauce that’s always a hit with my family.
Serve it with a batch of chicken meatballs (if you like) for a meal that’s always a crowd pleaser.
(Makes about 12 meatballs)
1 lb. ground chicken
1 cup bread crumbs
¼ cup milk
2 tbsp. Italian seasonings
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
Add all ingredients to your ground chicken. Roll meatballs and drop into olive oil. Cook until golden brown and the meat is no longer pink. Place in sauce (jarred or home made, tomato or vodka sauce, whatever you like) and warm through. Enjoy!
So, Hungry Lifers…how many times were you yelled at as a kid? What would you request for your Last Meal? Who played Good Cop/Bad Cop in your house – Mom or Dad? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!