Truth or Consequences
Daddy knew only three methods of discipline. A stern look, yelling, and the belt. Mother was the one who was creative in her approach to discipline. Parents who have more than one child have to use various corrective methods, because what works for one doesn’t always work for another. Daddy was a firm believer in “Spare the rod; spoil the child”, so we got plenty of that, too. Some of us responded and others of us didn’t.
Donna had concocted this big story about a mailbox that had spoken to her. We were listening intently as she lengthened her tall tale. This mailbox told her all kinds of cool and scary stuff. “You lie!” We told her. “No, I’m not! It’s the truth. The mailbox talked to me.” She was doing her best to convince us it was true. Being vulnerable and impressionable children, whose imaginations had no limits, we believed her.
Mother happened to catch the drift of the dialogue and called Donna aside. “Get in the car!”. She ordered her. “Why?” Donna inquired, with a half-knowing look on her face. “Just get in the car!” Mother repeated. With a little fear and a lot of inquisition, Donna accompanied Mother outside and into the car.
After a short and very quiet drive, Mother pulled up in front of a mailbox. “Get out of the car.” Mother instructed. “What?” Donna had no idea of what Mother had on her mind to do to her. “Get out of the car and walk over to the mailbox.” Mother insisted. Slowly Donna exited the car and walked around it to face the mailbox. Mother rolled down her car window. “Now, talk to it.” The instruction caused Donna’s head to do a nearly a 180, as she stared at Mother in disbelief of the words she had thought she had heard. “Talk to it?” Donna exclaimed! “Yes. Talk to it. With all of your experiences with talking mailboxes, I want to observe the conversation. Go ahead and talk to it.” Mother wasn’t letting her off the hook.
I don’t know what Donna said to the mailbox, but I do know that it didn’t respond. I am also certain that upon return to the car that a lecture was launched about how spinning such yarns ,and trying to make people believe that they were true was wrong.
The incident didn’t stop the tall tales in our family. We are slow learners. But, it was an hysterically funny disciplinary measure that made a lasting impression. There are some lessons we can learn from it.
1. Telling tall tales can be fun, as long as you make sure your readers or listeners know that they are fiction.
2. When the younger folk see you as a role model, be careful what you do and say.
3. A mailbox is the bearer of lots of words, but none of them are audible.