“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”
― Anne Lamott
Once upon a time, there was a boy. His name is not important.
He made life miserable for more than a few kids in the neighborhood where he lived. He was bigger than a lot of the boys, and he took pleasure in tormenting the girls through intimidation, name calling and rock-chucking. Day after day, season after season, he conducted his personal reign of terror as he rode around the village on his shiny, black Stingray bike scowling and looking for younger, weaker children to torment.
Now, if this was an actual Fairy Tale, the story would end with an older, much larger boy in the village distributing a little playground justice or the boy suddenly seeing the error of his ways and becoming kinder and gentler as a result.
But this is not a Fairy Tale.
Once upon a time, there was also mother. Her name is not important, either.
For months she’d had to listen to her daughter’s complaints, dry tears, and bandage the physical and emotional wounds inflicted by the boy. She’d complained to the boy’s parents and even lectured the bully personally, all to no avail.
And then, one April afternoon, she waited at the bus stop.
The bus she was waiting for arrived. Children began to file off. She waited a little longer.
Finally, she boarded the bus, exchanged words with the bus driver, and made her way to the back. She went to where the boy sat, and knelt next to him. Outside, children milled about on the lawn of the high school. It was springtime. Other buses pulled up and stopped to drop their passengers. Exhaust fumes rose in plumes as the buses idled, waiting for the high school students who would be riding the buses out of town.
Suddenly, the folding door of the first bus flew open. The mom and the boy stood there. She had him by the ear. They struggled together to the sidewalk. Grabbing the collar of his jean jacket, she shook him, hollering, “Not such a big boy NOW, are you?? How does it feel? Not so great, is it? SHAME on you! You are to leave my child alone, do you hear me? ALONE!!!!! Because if you don’t, every day, I will be here at this bus stop. And every day, I will do this. Do you UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM TELLING YOU?” He was on his back like a turtle.
She wasn’t a large or powerful woman, physically. Enraged, she was a giant. Before that day, she was just Somebody Else’s Mother. She made cookies and went to school programs. That day, she became a mythical warrior goddess. More Incredible Hulk than Carol Brady. A Mom whose kids were not to be messed with.
Later, when I had children of my own, I finally understood being that fed up. If you are a Mom, you are probably nodding your own head whether you agree with her method or not. Today, this act would probably land her either in jail or a psychiatrist’s office. Things were simpler in the 70’s, I suppose. There were children to be raised. Sometimes, the village helped raise them.
She gave the boy one last warning shake, stood up, brushed the grass off of her aqua polyester slacks, patted her permed hair, and marched toward home. The turtle boy sat up, rumpled, stunned and sniffling. He’d gotten a Pride Whuppin’ of monumental proportions.
Most of my memories of elementary school are blurry. Forty years later, the memory of the events of that day are crystal clear to me.
And I recall that from that point on, there was peace in the village. At least on our end of town.