There are certain words that can strike terror into the heart of a 17 year old.
I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who believed that guidelines and hard fast rules should be set, consequences paid for transgressions, and forgiveness given if the transgression was beyond your control. Bearing in mind the teenage brain would sometimes forget the rules and consequences would inevitably follow.
I need to provide a little family background here. For those of you who don’t know me, I have two older brothers. One is nine years older and the other nearly 12 years older than me. World War II came into the middle of this scene and Dad served overseas. I was assured that I wasn’t an accident but a planned event. At least with me, Dad didn’t have to get between pitch forks and harness straps to break up a fight as I had no one to fight with.
I didn’t have to worry about harnessing the horses to get to school, help to dig the hole to move the outhouse, or slop out the barn at the end of the day. I was old enough to remember but not old enough to participate. (Thank you Gods of Fertility!)
In comparison to my two siblings, I was a goody two shoes (so to speak). I didn’t drink during my teen years so I would be the designated driver for my friends who did. Their parents knew if their kids were with me they’d get home safely no matter what they got themselves into. (If only the parking lot at the microwave tower above Onanole could talk.)
I know you will find this hard to believe, but a 17 year old can get a little cocky. Let’s see how far we can push the envelope. Actually, it isn’t a conscious decision. Sometimes at that age we just check our brains for the day and let life unfold.
Until we were 18, we were expected to live by the house rules. For me, from about 15 to 18 minus 1 day, these included a curfew on weekends of midnight in the summer and 10:00 PM during the school year. Going out during the week was unheard of as I lived 12 miles from the nearest town where my friends lived. Most of them were farm kids rather than “townies” so there was no way they could come out and play during the week. My final two years at home were in the town site of Riding Mountain National Park called Wasagaming or as we called it Clear Lake. It was easier to pronounce. Besides, that is what the lake is called. It is well named. But, I digress.
One warm summer night, I had a rare night off from my job as manager of the bowling alley and was dating my boss’ nanny unbeknownst to him. She finished work at about 9:00 PM, we took in a movie, went to Sportsman’s Park for a burger and shake and before you know it, it’s 2:00AM! Panic sets in!
I dropped her off at her place, headed home, and tried to sneak into my bedroom. Now, there is something you need to know about my mother. When one of her brood was out, even if it was before your curfew when she went to bed, she never went to sleep. She would wait to be sure you made it safely home. Such was the case this particular evening.
One of the other rules was that if you were going to be late, call, so the folks don’t worry. Oops!
I tip toed up the stairs, made it to my bedroom door and heard the words this seventeen year old didn’t want to hear, “Bud, your son is home.”
You see, Dad didn’t bother staying awake, he knew Mom would wake him up if the phone rang or she needed to make him aware of our lateness of arrival.
The booming voice from the other side of the bedroom door could be heard calling, “WHAT TIME IS IT?”
Ok, this caused an immediate rise in the heart rate, a surge of adrenalin, and a near loosening of ones sphincter muscles.
You are now faced with a couple of choices. The first, of course, is lie and say it’s just before midnight in which case Mom would promptly tell Dad the real time and you’d be in even deeper trouble, or, tell the truth and wait for the shoe to drop.
I humbly replied “It’s 2:30” thereby hoping truthfulness would win some points.
“IT WON”T BE 2:30 TOMORROW MORNING!” then silence.
These words had an immediate effect. First, I knew I was in big trouble. Second, I knew I was going to be punished. Third, I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight as I’d have to face Dad in the morning. So, while they slept in blissful peace, I, on the other hand spent the night tossing and turning dreading the morning.
What is the worst punishment you can give a 17 year old who likes to drive? Take away the car keys. I lost car privileges for two weeks. Not being able to drive around Clear Lake with all the windows down on our ’59 Chevy Hard Top was a blow to the ego. Not being able to pick up my girlfriend on my rare night off was an even bigger one.
However, lesson learned. I knew one thing for sure, I never again wanted to hear the phrase, “Bud, your son is home!”