Swimming in Paradise Lost

Oh, what a day we had!  My sister and I were both just kids, less than 10 years old.  But we knew how to have fun in a swimming pool.  And the swimming pool we were in was fantastic.  It was a big, in-ground pool, probably 20’ x 40’ with a nice concrete walk all the way around it.  There was a giant, blue squiggly slide on one side, a diving board on another.  The water was as clear as the cleanest glass in the cupboard.  And the water felt as cool as my mother’s iced tea.

It was a great day of splashing, swimming, floating, sliding, and diving.  The only other person in the pool was our friend Tracy.  In fact, the pool belonged to Tracy’s aunt.  Tracy and her family were taking care of it while the aunt was away.  She invited us to come along with them on this particularly sunny day.  It was paradise, until we returned home.

Paradise was quickly lost upon our arriving home.  We didn’t get past the sidewalk before the switch wrapped its talons violently across the back of our calves, leaving an undecipherable Morris-code message of dot-dot-dashes written in the slightly raised red lines.  To say my mother was angry would have been an understatement along the lines of “BP spilled a little oil.”  My mother was furious.

While we were soaking up the son over on Frusha Drive, my mother (across town) was marching up and down Bon Ami Street calling our names, wondering where we might be.  To this day, I still maintain that the ordeal occurred from miscommunication rather than disobedience, but my mother (the bearer of the switch) still thinks otherwise.  The switch got the final word.

My sister sent me to ask my mother’s permission for us to go across town swimming, thinking that my mother would likely be a little softer toward me—her baby boy.  Dutifully, I went.  I heard my mother respond to my request for permission to go swimming with a simple, “un-huh,” in which the “n” is not really pronounced; it’s simply there in a kind of “n”-sounding way.  The reason that is so important in this case is that it sounds remarkably similar to its negative counterpart in the Southern dialect, which is, “unt-uh.”  The first colloquialism is affirmative: It means, “Sure, kids, go swimming all day and have a great time.”  The second is negative (and in this case most emphatically so): It means, “Absolutely not! Are you crazy? Of course you cannot go across town swimming at another person’s home, whom I don’t even know.”  One little sound makes an awful lot of difference to a kid’s bottom.

I share the story because of its impact on my sister.  She was innocent in the matter.  Her spanking was the direct result of my telling her it was OK for us to go.  She received a defective word from me; yet she still suffered for it as much as I did.  Her spanking is a testimony to the reality that innocents will suffer because of sin.  My mistake caused her to suffer.

(to be continued)

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