My first post in this series was about my first memory, at about a year old, of my dad’s return from prison, where he’d been for my whole short life. Most kids feel special when singled out by a parent, but since my dad knew how long he’d been out of the “pen” by subtracting one year from my age, my existence always seemed inexorably linked to his being an ex-convict. So special! Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy all over.
A memory from that early time that I don’t have, became family legend; it involved my dad and me. It was shortly after his return, and we kept the whole house up when he made it clear there was a new sheriff in town, and I was breaking the law. Of course, I was a one-year-old and didn’t even know what the hell a sheriff was, didn’t know why this stranger thought he was in charge, and certainly had no idea why he lorded over light switches!
As my story began in Coffeyville, Kansas, thus did the great light switch brawl. As the legend goes, the new dad/sheriff-guy turned off the light when I was put to bed. As the legend continues, I stood up in my crib/playpen thing and was just able to reach the switch, which I promptly flipped back on. Of course, I did; why wouldn’t I? Now I don’t know if my mom let me sleep with the light on before his return, if I just wasn’t sleepy, or if I was showing impressively early signs of rebellion. Still, it must have been quite an ordeal as I’ve heard the story repeatedly in the years since. And on it went; he turned the light back off. I turned the light back on. He would not be challenged, therefore, over my mother’s protests, he spanked me. I cried. Satisfied that I got the message, he turned the light off and left the room.
I turned the light on.
Rinse and repeat.
Apparently, they all thought he was going to spank me to death, and everyone was crying, including my mom (excluding the new sheriff, of course). Obviously, I survived.
Over the years, I concocted my own memory of the thing. I know it’s fake because I can see myself, diaper butt and all, standing and straining to push the switch up. And because it’s my version of the story, Dad thinks it’s cute, doesn’t spank me, and I win. I really do like my version best…but there’s that whole truth thing that gets in the way every time I try to tell it. Dang it.
I guess what makes it so ironic is that in later years, I rarely defied him. Also, funny, but not in the hee-hee sense, is that while our light switch skirmish was the first sign that the Dad’s-home-honeymoon period was over, it was the mildest of the family adjustments. While he came to my room to dominate the lighting, he had other plans for my three siblings, who weren’t much older than me; light switches and spankings were not factors. Their encounters were much more private; no funny family stories for them. I have so often wished I could have adjusted their truth, the way I have mine.
Yep. I guess light switch wars made me the lucky one. And for the record…I am now the light switch queen. I flip switches willy-nilly at all hours. And because those days are over, I don’t worry about what’s going on when the switch is down.