29 July 2019

Bess Tuggle's Memoirs of Surviving Children: "Mama, Where's the Fire Extinguisher?"



“Empty Nest Syndrome.”  This term seems to elude my mind.  HOW can you not be ecstatic when the final fledgling leaves the nest?

One of my absolute BEST memories was the first time I got to go to the grocery store myself.  No children.   Thing 1 finally turned 12, which meant he was legally able to “baby sit” his little brothers.  It didn’t guarantee their safety, but it did safeguard my liability.  Was I worried?  Yes.  Did I expect to come home to a house that was burned to cinders?  Yes.  Did I know my kids were safe?  YES, pretty much – duct tape and super glue had been hidden well before I left.  As for fire, we’d practiced fire drills from time outta mind, but to leave them alone for 30 minutes (I –did- power-shop, throw basics in the buggy ‘n get out of there), it was still a heady feeling.   AND I got to leave the grocery store without approximately $200 worth of stuff I had no intention of buying in the first place.  No tag-teaming Mama on that trip!

We branched out from there. 

There were a couple times I delved into “daycare,” but it simply wasn’t worth it.  The first was a stay-at-home relative (to my children) that volunteered, at a fee, to watch them.  Within a month I got the call that they were “in the ditch throwing rocks at cars” going down the road, and I was responsible for a windshield.  I was paying for WHAT?!?  When I was with them I didn’t always know what they were doing, but I certainly knew what they were –not- doing.  Windshield paid for (cash from me, hard labor from the Thing responsible), and that particular babysitter canned.

Then came the time I took a part-time job in Conyers.  It really was a fun job.  I LOVED it!  If you’ve never worked for a court reporting firm, you ought to try it.  You get –paid- to be entertained!  Even with the things I saw and heard in a court room working for a law firm couldn’t compare to this.  I got to read –all- the transcripts that I had to produce and some of them were hilarious!  That’s where I learned the rule:   Think twice, speak once.  Not that it stuck, but I did get to see the results of not adhering to it. 

But then there came the fateful call that ended a career I loved.   It was a small office, and the boss could only hear my side of the conversation when one of my children called, but she laughed so hard I thought I was going to have to call 911 for her.

The first thing I heard was “Mama, where’s the fire extinguisher?”  My mind went into panic mode, but the first thing I said was “under the sink,” then asked “what’s on fire?”  That’s when the boss damn near fell off her chair.

The answer I received was “wait a minute.”  Now –I’m- saying “call 911.”

Turned out Thing 4, in his infinite wisdom, decided he wanted to make popcorn – on the stove.  That was COMPLETELY off limits when I wasn’t home, but he did it anyway, without oil or the pot lid.  The only things that got burned was one of my favorite pots (I still have it, after glass-beading the burnt popcorn off the bottom), the ceiling above the stove was a couple shades darker forevermore,  and the bench on the back porch where he set the pot to keep from burning the house down had a permanent black ring. 

I’m sure there are more tales coming, but that’s all I can handle for one sit-down.  Call it the rip-tide of memories.  They can carry me out, but swimming back to shore is a beast.

 I equate kids to puppies.  They’re awfully cute, but they can sure tear some shit up.  And then they grow up and tear up bigger shit.  At least they have to pay for it themselves now.   


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