I wasn’t allowed to have them when I was a little girl. No matter that the thinking is they come automatically with the “terrible twos,” my father hadn’t taken child psychology nor read that anywhere, so the thought of his daughter throwing herself on the floor, holding her breath, and yelling and screaming would never fly in his house.
When we went to the store, and I desperately wanted something that he could not afford or didn’t want me to have, he nipped any bad behavior in the bud with a short and sweet, “No.” If I didn’t “get it,” he’d nip me in the butt; and it was over. As T.S. Eliot penned, “Not with a bang, but a whimper.” I was allowed to whimper, but no high-level drama would ever be tolerated. That ended the day I locked myself in the bathroom.
Back then we lived on the seventh floor of a high-rise apartment house. I figure I was around 3 or 4 years old, no more; and this one particular day I was naughty. It’s been a few decades so I don’t actually remember what I did or said, but I knew this … it wasn’t going to go well for me. My angry father had had enough and set about finding me to give me a well-deserved spanking. Back then folks did that; it kept the young’uns in line. No one called DCYF or was horrified. Every naughty kid got spanked … or should have.
Well, my toddler logic told me if I ran in the bathroom and locked the door, my father couldn’t find me or get to me, and I’d be spared. I ran as fast as my fat little legs could carry me, slammed the door (killing any subtle hint of where I might be hiding), and somehow figured out how to lock it.
For what seemed like a very long time my father hollered at me to open the door. Soon my mother joined in, beseeching me in a more docile tone, but nevertheless imploring me to cut the crap and come on out. Finally, the bargaining started. “If you unlock the door and come out now, I promise I won’t spank you. I will punish you, but I promise, no spanking.”
I considered my options. That sounded like a pretty fair deal, so I set about unlocking the door ... except I hadn’t a clue how to do it. For over an hour my father tried to give me directions, but I just couldn’t do it. He then resorted to calling the apartment house superintendent, who was not around; so as a last-ditch effort, he had to call the fire department. Within a very short time two men came and took the door off, giving me a great sense of relief and my parents a great sense of embarrassment. But the firemen assured my folks that this was all in a day’s work. Then they left; and still angry and embarrassed, my father broke his promise, right on my behind.
Fast forward a couple of generations to a week or so ago. The doorknob on our bathroom door was old and worn. My husband got his tools and set about removing it to install a new one, but ran into a snag and left it. “Just don’t shut the door all the way,” he advised. And for more than a week, I remembered. Till last Saturday. We came in from a long day away, and I headed straight for the bathroom, shutting the door hard. Uh-oh.
I tried twisting, turning, wedging my toothbrush handle inside and jiggling, but nothing worked. I hollered for my husband, who essentially tried all of the above, peppering his efforts with words not suitable for a family newspaper. He tried calling our handy neighbor, Don, but got the answering machine. Finally after more than an hour of my lavatory incarceration, he was forced to call the Hope Valley Fire Department. I’ll say this for them, they’re quick. And good. The two volunteer firemen came, laughing throughout the entire procedure until they extricated a very embarrassed me.
They were barely out of the driveway when I looked at my husband. Then I looked at the door. And then I had a tantrum.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 16 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She is the author of three books and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539- 7762.