Hot summer days bring back a memory from 1978. I was nine and my sister Cara, was 12. We spent our beautiful summer mornings parked in front of the television watching I Love Lucy reruns. This was followed by more I Love Lucy reruns. It was our summer routine, and nothing could get in the way of it.
Except, maybe the mailman…let me explain. (“Splain Lucy!” as an angry, Ricky Ricardo would say). Being the kid to carry the mail in was a coveted position during the summer months. This one particular summer day, we must have been particularly bored as the “Extreme Race for the Mail” ensued. Cara and I both saw the little, white mail truck making its way to our house. As it approached, we both darted out the door, shoving the other down the driveway, running toward the mailbox in front of our house. We both met one confused mailman, who handed over the mail. Cara grabbed one end and I firmly gripped the other. It was a tug-of-war that included, kicking, laughing, pushing and hair pulling. This fight was played out in front of an audience of one startled mailman. Neither of us cared that he was watching. So it went, as we shoved, yelled and hit each other, both holding one hand on the prized mail, all the way up the driveway.
I don’t remember which one of us actually won the right to carry in the mail. I do remember seeing our mother turn into Evil Witch Mother as she met us in the foyer of our home. She had been watching this intense, physical battle from the front window. Mom was disgusted, and embarrassed that we would behave this way for the entire neighborhood to watch, not to mention, the poor, unsuspecting mailman. I recall the words “angry, disappointed, and horrified,” fly from her mouth as she was yelling at us.
Our punishment for the Extreme Race for the Mail was one we had never received. When we were younger, mom spanked us with a wooden spoon. That is a traditional, Italian form of discipline. As we grew up, the penalties changed. I don’t think either of us was ready for the penance mom demanded that summer day. Mom sufficiently shamed us for our despicable, embarrassing behavior, and then we were sent to our rooms. We were instructed to write out this sentence, one hundred times, “I will not act like a jackass in front of the mailman”. Really, that was our punishment. One hundred times! For the record my mother was not a cusser, at all, so I knew we tipped her over the edge.
Disappointing and angering my mom was something I avoided. I felt horrible, crying and whimpering, as I wrote out sentence after sentence, “I will not act like a jackass in front of the mailman. I will not act like a jackass in front….” I was only on sentence number ten, when Cara quietly peered into my room. She saw me crying on the paper while I wrote. She couldn’t believe that I would actually carry out this ridiculous punishment. She refused!
Cara was a stubborn, tough cookie who had the guts to stand up to mom. She was chuckling, saying the punishment was stupid. I thought about it, and she was right. With her on my side, I stopped at sentence ten. Together, we hung out in my room, rehashing what we both thought was an extremely funny story. Mom never enforced to us carry out our punishment and we never acted like jackasses in front of the mailman again.