Saturday, January 26, 2019

House Rules

I'm in Marshall, Texas in my way to Uncle jack's funeral after a long day of basketball games.  Tomorrow, I'll be with family and we'll remember the good old days. This is an unhappy memory of those good old days. It's from from January 9, 2006. 

Many memories of my freshman year in college are connected with Jim Croce. The singer-songwriter from Philadelphia was killed in a plane crash in September that year, leaving behind a wife and little boy. As often happens, his popularity increased posthumously and he sold more records after his death than in his thirty living years. I identified with his love songs which centered around romances falling by the wayside, the theme of my first year in college. He also wrote story songs, ballads like Roller Derby Queen, Workin' at the Carwash Blues, and Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown. My favorite Jim Croce tune was You Don't Mess Around With Jim, the tale of a neighborhood bully and his comeuppance. The chorus contains the four YOU DONT'S of the street:

You don't tug on Superman's cape, 
You don't spit into the wind, 
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, 
And you don't mess around with Jim! 
As in every good story song, there is a twist. Willie McCoy (aka Slim) beats Jim to a pulp and the ditty has a directional change: 
And you better believe they sung a different kind of story 
When big Jim hit the floor.

In my house, we had our own kind of rules to live by, the MOM DON'TS, if you will. They didn't rhyme like Croce's did and they didn't involve fictional heroes like the Lone Ranger and Superman but they were no less inflexible and they had their dire consequences:
You don't leave the table until everyone is done eating. You don't fool around in church. You don't talk back. AND YOU DON'T PLAY BALL IN THE HOUSE! The last one was the hardest to live by. My brother, Dave, and I always had a ball in our hands. It was hard to go outside in Nebraska winters with temperatures below zero. Once, when a visiting preacher was staying with us, he joined (or started) our impromptu living room football game which ended when a vase, inherited Mom from her grandmother, was shattered by an errant pass. The scriptures speak of dying to self; that man of God was looking for a place to die! About fifth grade, I began jumping and touching the spot above doorways simulating a basketball layup. This drove my mother crazy, too, even though TECHNICALLY, there was no ball involved. Mom even banned us from talking about sports at mealtime. That was taking it too far!

It came to a head when Grandpa Chesshir had a heart attack in Arkansas at Christmas. Mom took a bus ride south to be with him. This gave Dave and I many opportunities to play one-on-one in the living room. Dave was always taller so I was used to being at a disadvantage. The ball was a blue plastic number and it was in my possession. To score, you had to bank the ball off the area above the doorway. I jab stepped and Dave took the bait, falling back to cut off my drive to the "hoop." After creating space, I went up with perfect form for my jump shot. There was one problem. I was directly under the ceiling light, covered with a ornate glass fixture. It broke into a thousand pieces. I was mortified! Dad wasn't happy but he wasn't my main concern. The days until Mom returned to seemed an eternity. I knew I would die. When she walked into the house, I shook. I don't remember if Dad had warned her or let me do the explaining. More than angry, she was SO disappointed and that was the worst punishment. (As I recall, Dave faced no sanctions.) I also had to pay for the fixture and there was no match for it in our small town. Mom eventually got over the incident and it became part of family lore. But, even when angry with me, I had no doubt she loved me. She separated the sin from the sinner, something I struggle with. In my sophomore Bible classes today, we continued our study of the Sermon on the Mount. One point we made was how Jesus taught loving individuals. I brought up a famous person of whom it was said, "He loves mankind but he hates people." Could there be more of a contradiction? I spoke of my folks suffering from cancer and Alzheimer's and I hate those diseases. It would be silly to say I hate Mom because she has Alzheimer's. Jesus despised adultery.... but he loved the adulterer. Jesus' teachings are difficult for us because he raised the standards of behavior so high but even more, he raised the standards for forgiveness. Mom wiped her son's slate clean but the one-on-one games for Hawley domination died a horrible death that cold, Nebraska afternoon. May they R.I.P.! 

To listen to Jim Croce sing You Don't Mess Around With Jim, copy and paste the link below!

Applicable quote of the day:
"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness."
Honore de Balzac

God bless,
Steve (The Jump Shooter)
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at


Jon said...

The title explains life... dont mess with your mom

Devin Turner said...

I found my password so i have a new blog posted!

JKC said...

There is always a special place in Mom's heart for her sons - regardless of what they do. "Mother's are like that - yea, they are!"

Family fun said...

i can just imagine your mom's reaction to those events! your house rules were much the same as ours. i felt strongly that the family should all be at the dinner table at the same time. in our family we had 3 sets of dishes; there were the every day plates - corel and then there were the good dishes - blue willow that tom and i purchased before we got married. then there were the "good manners" dishes. they weren't expensive - clear glass dishes that i had bought at walmart. the kids all knew if those dishes were on the table that they were to use 'company manners' at that meal. an added rule that had been put into place when we worked at the children's home was if anyone said "yuck" or words to the equivelent 'won' you an extra serving. the funny part is that very seldom did it get used for the purpose it was originally put into place. the common use for the word became a statement of 'i want more!'

i'm glad you had this media before your parents both took such a bad turn with their health. it appears to be a place for you to go through the closet of your mind and allow for the healing to take place. i'm also glad for this because it allows me to do some of the same - although mine are not nearly as intense as yours are! your mom remains, as she always has been, a warm and loving person! my last visit with her was so comforting - she loved having her forhead kissed and being told she was loved. i think that is a basic in life - we all need to be told we're loved and we all need that loving physical touch.

David Barnett said...

Great tie in to Jim Croce, definitely a favorite of mine! I have a brother two years younger. Mom would say, "Take it outside!" Most of the time in north central Texas we could.