"Mama, did you have time outs when you were a child?" Cole asked one day.
It had been eons since Cole had been put in time out. For the most part, he had been a pretty well-behaved child and time outs were like torture to him.
"Lord, no," I answered.
"Then what did they do back then? Did you have to move your clip?"
"We didn't move our clips either," was my response.
"Then what in the world did they do back then?" You would have thought I lived in the medieval times of child rearing given the lack of time out and clip moving.
"You got your tater whooped," I told him.
My child was aghast. A physical punishment? How inhumane. The horrors.
"Nennie whooped you?" he cried.
"Well, sometimes. Usually, it was Granny. Nennie didn't really spank me until I was older."
Let me rephrase that: Mama tore my tater up later and it was during my teenage years, starting around 14 when my mouth opened up and the things coming out of it were so full of venom, I am surprised she didn't pack me up and put me on a bus to Alburquerue or some place without a mall. Whatever she did to me from 14 on, I undoubtedly deserved and then some.
When I was younger, no matter what I did, if I could make Mama laugh, I was safe. A pretty good safety technique.
Again, that worked until I was 14. Then, the things that came out of my mouth may have made my friends and cohorts giggle at my brazenness, but my words had Mama mastering the skill of the behind her head backhand without even dropping the ash off her Virginia Slim 120.
Granny, on the other hand, probably is the originator of the phrase "smack you so hard your teeth will rattle."
I told Mama once the old gal is the reason my bite is off, despite braces. Mama blamed it on me not wearing the retainer.
"Nope, I can tell you the night my bite went off and why. You just have to remember that the statute of limitations on stuff from my childhood has expired."
I remembered the night too well. A friend and I had gone cruising, which is all there was to do and meant we were driving around endlessly in the Piggly Wiggly shopping center. I am sure some big-hair heavy metal was blasting from my friend's mother's Cutlass because we were just that cool.
Now, Mama would not have let me gone if she had thought I was up to those kind of shenanigans. Granny neither. So I told a small candy coated lie: I told Granny we were going to the football game. Except, I worded it as "we are going by the game," which in my mind, was not really a lie; we drove by the school as we headed to the Pig.
Of course, we failed to notice that there was no one there because the game was supposed to be in Winder. And this was decades before cell phones existed, so no way to send a text asking what was going on or the score.
Just like there was no way to know that Granny would be a diligent little spy and would be listening to the game on the radio so she could quiz me later, including her little tidbit of knowledge that the game was in Winder and clearly outside of my boundary line.
I hoped to escape the old woman once I got home. She had made her seven-layer chocolate delight while I was gone and it would be in the fridge. In fact, I had been thinking about that all night. As I closed the door to the fridge, there stood the old woman. I about dropped my bowl of pudding.
She smiled. I should have known that was not a good sign. She never smiles unless she's about to kill you. She's like an opossum bearing its teeth before it attacks the chicken house.
"So, how was the game?" she asked.
"Good," I said. What was in that pudding stuff, I wondered? It had to have cream cheese and cool whip to be so good.
"Was it? Did you see anyone you know?"
"Yeah, saw a lot of folks." Not a lie, they were just in the Pig parking lot.
"Do you remember the final score?" she asked.
"We were winning when we left, we ducked out a little bit early to hit Pizza-" no sooner had I said those words then bam, said the lady, she popped me across the face with her right hand, causing me to drop my seven-layer chocolate delight to the floor.
"You are lying as you breathe. They got their tails smashed all over that field tonight. Except, you wouldn't know that because the game, you lying little thing, was in Winder."
For some reason, Granny never told Mama about that night. Probably because she knew she knocked my bite off and made my nose tingle she popped me so hard.
"Granny slapped you?" Cole asked, his eyes wide and round.
"Yes, Cole, she did. I shouldn't have lied to her though."
"She shouldn't have slapped you," was his logic.
"So Nennie didn't spank you or slap you when you were younger?" he asked.
"No, not when I was younger," I said. "What she did was actually far more effective and scarier."
Cole's eyes widened even more. "What did she do?"
"It's the whisper threat," I began. "When I was little, any time I thought about showing my tater or pitching a fit, Mama would just bend down, usually pinching the tiniest bit of flesh on the back of my arm and smile, while she whispered, ‘you even think of showing your tail and I will take you out of here so quick and tear your hinney up - do you understand? Smile and nod if you do.'"
"Did that work?" Cole wanted to know.
"Oh shoot yeah," I said. "Having someone smile and whisper to you they were gonna whoop you was far more effective than having someone scream at you."
He thought about this for a second then said, "Hey, that's what you've done with me before, haven't you?"
I said nothing. I didn't have to. Sparing the rod doesn't spoil the child, but whispering you will tear their tail up scares the misbehaving right out of them.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist.