More True Tall Tales

by Mommie Dark

One day when Cas and Ike were respectively just shy of three and two, an elders' wife decided that what Mommie Dark needed was more time in field service without her hyperactive babies. She mentioned this on several occasions, to which Mommie gently replied that she found it hard to expect anyone to devote the amount of time needed to keep her boys out of mischief. After several such conversations, Sister Elder declared herself confident that she could manage two little boys at least once a week, say Wednesdays, and how about we plan on it next week? Wednesdays Sister Elder just stayed in and did farm chores, she was home anyway, why, just bring the little guys over! Mommie asked her several times if she was aware of how very little in the way of her farm chores Sister Elder could expect to complete while minding Mommie's little tornadoes. Sister patted Mommie's hand and remarked sympathetically that Mommie must be transferring her anxieties onto the boys, she just needed a confidence boost, and more field service would be just the thing to help her quit hovering over her sons. 

Mommie swallowed her reservations and accepted the offer. The following Wednesday morning promptly at eight Mommie left her boys on the farm. The boys were shown into the living room, where Fisher-Price toys sat in neat array on the carpet. Sister Elder had baskets of fruit and clean canning jars spread on her kitchen counters, snowy towels and lids and tongs standing nearby. Mommie asked Sister if she was sure she wanted to work in the kitchen without confining the boys to the room. Sister shooed Mommie out the door, scolding about her overprotectiveness, so Mommie got in the van with the group and went in field service.

Mommie spent a long morning in the rural preaching work, actually talking to just one person in the course of a morning spent mostly in the van listening to pioneer gossip, and returned at about one in the afternoon.

Sister Elder looked distinctly disheveled when she opened the door. Her hair was standing up over her brow, as if she had recently pushed it out of her eyes in exasperation. Her apron was slightly askew, as were her nylons.

"Were they much trouble?" Mommie asked as her little powerhouses hurtled across the kitchen to throw themselves at her. She grunted as she absorbed the impact of two sturdy little bodies rocketing into her with eager hugs.

Sister Elder shoved the loose hair up with the back of her hand, sighed. "They weren't BAD boys at all, Sister. I don't want you to think they were bad, or destructive... did you know they both scoot down the stairs on their seats? I nearly died of fright when I saw Ike standing at the top of those stairs. I never heard a sound; one minute he was right by me, the next... but he sure can scoot down fine. Never saw a child do that."

"I taught him that before he could walk; he was just a baby when Cas learned it, he picked it up then. Those stadium stairs at assemblies ... we had to find a safe way down."

"Never saw anything like it. I never saw a child climb a bookshelf before, either. I found Cas on the top shelf ... he did it while I was vacuuming."

"I did warn you," Mommie reminded her. "Did you get your jam made?"

Sister sighed again. "No, I gave up after the first batch. Once Cas climbed the bookshelf I figured I'd better give them my undivided attention for a while. We read the Bible Stories book at least ten times. How do you keep them busy all day? How do you get anything done? They aren't bad boys, but they just never stand still for a second, do they?"

The little squelched voice of sarcasm that always lived inside of her was dancing and shouting "Told you so, told you so!" but Mommie shamed it into silence and thanked Sister for her efforts and went on her way home. No further mention was made of a regular Wednesday service day without the boys, and Sister Elder never volunteered her services as babysitter for Mommie Dark again.

**** When Mommie Dark was sufficiently indoctrinated, she was told she had progressed to the point of baptism. Elders began to visit her to review the questions one is required to answer satisfactorily according to Watchtower teachings before one is permitted to be baptized. One of these elders was a very young single man whose parents had supported him in his pioneering since he was fifteen years old. He offered much unsolicited counsel on Mommie's childrearing at every opportunity, always smilingly flourishing a scripture to support his advice, usually ending with an admonition about foolishness and rods to remove it from a boys' heart. He made it his business to oversee Mommie's baptismal questions.

He sat in her living room asking questions from a book while her boys played with blocks and cars at their feet. The elder with him, although much older and more experienced, deferred to the younger man and let him do the talking. He held forth for a while, frowning at the boys if they giggled or walked between the adults' seats, and then said, " Couldn't the children play in another room? They are really too distracting, we cannot discuss these deep things with this noise. Little boy," he said to Cas, 'Be a good boy and go play in your room." He motioned toward the wrong bedroom door and said, "Go on now!" in a stern voice.

Cas looked at him a moment, blinked, and then abruptly wound up and let fly with a wooden car, hitting the elder squarely between the eyes. As the elder stared, too astonished to move or speak, Cas burst into tears and Mommie, jumping across the room, snatched him and Ike up in one swift motion and bundled them into their bedroom. Ike began to cry at being jostled so abruptly, and both boys stood screaming at being dumped into their crib together. Mommie went back to the living room, where the elders were standing, the young one looking stunned and the older stifling a grin.

The young elder made stiff excuses and beat a hasty retreat, promising to send another to finish the questioning another day. He made no admonishment nor offered any advice concerning how Mommie should deal with the little culprit, but drew on his topcoat and cashmere scarf and departed, swiftly. The other elder shook Mommie's hand and patted her shoulder, and let a small chuckle escape as he stepped out the door.

Other elders reviewed the baptismal questions with Mommie, and the young elder never spoke to her again.

*** Mommie's hyperactive sons rarely sat still for more than five minutes, but certain public television programs would hold their attention and keep them amused for nearly thirty minutes at a time. When they were very small Mommie knew that if she worked quickly she could just wash one floor during Romper Room before something would need her undivided attention. She was cleaning her kitchen when Cas walked across the wet floor. "What's the matter?" Mommie asked. "Romper Room is on, you know."

"Can't go in there yet," he replied seriously. "Jehovah won't like it."

"Jehovah won't like what?"

"They're saying the pledge of the Egypt," he said seriously. "That's identity."

"Identity?"

"Yes, you know, identity, like that golden calf. The flag is like a golden calf. Jehovah hates pledging Egypt to the flag. It's identity. Said so at meeting."

"Oh," Mommie said. "Idolatry?" Cas nodded. "Well, they're done saying the pledge now."

"'Kay," Cas said cheerfully, and went back to his show.

And Mommie had thought they weren't learning anything at meetings!

One day when Ike was four years old he rushed into the house, squirming with excitement as he showed Mommie a baby horned toad he had found in the yard. He took a large matchbox and declared his intention of keeping 'Luke' forever, although Mommie expressed her doubts about their ability to keep the lizard healthy.

After an hour or more of excitement, the baby horned toad was, predictably, quite dead. Mommie took the boys into the back yard and helped them bury the tiny body deep enough to foil scavengers, and Ike bowed his head sadly over the grave.

Later that afternoon Ike rushed into the kitchen hopping and shouting "Mom! Mom! Luke's been resurrected!" He took her hand and pulled her out onto the porch, where, in exactly the spot he had first found Luke, stood a little horned toad: same posture, same exact position on the porch. "Look, Mom, Jehovah heard my prayer!" Ike said, taking the toad lovingly into his hands. "My Luke, you're back!" Over Mommie's protests he insisted on keeping the baby in the same matchbox, offering it a few dead flies, which it ignored.

An hour later it was stiff and dead , and Mommie dug another hole and put it to rest.

An hour later Ike was shouting again. Mommie went outside, and sure enough, there was the same toad baby in the same sunny spot. Ike was laughing and jumping, and Mommie decided to get to the bottom of the whole thing. She took the spade in one hand and Ike's hand in the other and together they went back out to the yard and dug up her two previous holes. Two very stiff dead lizards filled the holes, while on the porch their sibling basked.

Mommie spent a while discussing resurrection with a thoroughly confused and disappointed Ike. They decided to enjoy the horned toad baby without attempting to hold or keep him, and spent many enjoyable moments watching it as it grew and lived in their yard.

Mommie's boys loved to watch and handle the various critters that thrived in the dusty Texas soil. They lived near a railroad track, with a steep ravine between the house and the track and a creek running parallel to the tracks just a hundred yards or so beyond the old railroad station. Their neighborhood offered rich food for their curiosity. Each season brought new natural wonders for the inquisitive boys. They became avid bird watchers, and took a liking to Audubon bird books, enjoying the wonderful variety of birds that live in or migrate through Texas. Mommie stood by in amazement the day Ike spent his waking hours lying quietly on his belly watching a cocoon hatch into a gorgeous Monarch butterfly. His wonder at the strange beauty of the process overcame his hyperactivity, and he rarely strayed far from the cocoon all day.

Not all their adventures with Texas wildlife were so sweet, at least from Mommie's viewpoint.

In dawn's pastel green-tinged pink light Mommie came awake to the faint sound of Cas crying, quietly. She padded through the house, hearing a growing note of fear in his crying, and a quick search found him outside, standing stockstill between the corner of the house and the foundation-planted lilac tree, sobbing.

"Sweetie, what is it?" Mommie asked, and he wept louder and said, "I'm stuck in a spider web an' she's right there an' I'm scared if I move she'll get on my face! Momm-eee-ee-ee!" he finished, on a rising note.

Mommie set him free, hugged him until his tears dried up, and told him firmly he must not get up before daylight to play outside!

One morning not terribly long after that, in the stillness before daylight Mommie was awakened by Cas urgently whispering. "Mom! Mom!" Coming groggily awake, she turned her head and saw, illuminated by a flashlight and held bare inches from her face, the biggest toad she had ever seen.

She leaped to the far side of the bed and said, "What are you doing?" in a shrill voice.

"Look at all these toads," Cas gloated, shining the light behind him. Ike stood there grinning, holding the handle of a five-gallon bucket that brimmed over with squirming toads. "This one is the fattest," he said, hefting the one he still held out to Mommie.

"What time is it?" she asked, faintly.

"Mmm...five o'clock, Cas said, looking at the digital readout.

"How long have you been out there?" Mommie asked, becoming alarmed.

Cas fished idly in the bucket, comparing toads, hefting a tiny one in his free hand, dangling the monster toad casually in the other. "Oh, not long, an hour maybe. It doesn't take long to collect lotsa toads, they're everywhere! The little ones squish under my boots when I walk across the yard in the dark. It's cool."

"Didn't I tell you to stay inside until daylight? Mommie asked, exasperated.

"Oh. I guess I forgot," Cas said, and then, "But aren't they cool?"

To her everlasting credit, Mommie did not show a tenth the revulsion she felt. She admonished the boys to stay indoors until daylight and made them set all the toads free.

Later that day she caught the boys watching, fascinated, as two neighbor boys slamdunked toads onto the pavement to see how high they would bounce. She enlisted her fathers' help to install locks at the tops of the doors and move a bookshelf near the front door so neither boy could climb up to unlock it.

***

These adventures are but a few of the hundreds of incredible but true tales of raising Mommie Dark's sons. During their formative years, Mommie's boys challenged every parenting skill she could develop. Their ingenuity at finding mischief was astounding. At times Mommie wanted to tear out her hair.

One day when Mommie was goaded to shrieking by some foolishness, she said, "What did I ever do to deserve a child like you?"

To which Cas replied without missing a beat, "Just lucky, I guess!"

He was right!

 


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