I’ve wanted to tell you about this for a long time. I know I’ve told you about many of the stupid things I did as a child, but for some reason it has been particularly difficult for me to share this bit of… what can I call it? Ridiculousness? Yes. Perhaps this morsel from my childhood can be termed a ridiculousness.
Even as I steel myself to tell you about it, I find myself overcome with the yearning to travel back in time and smack my younger-self upside my bulbous cranium. Since that is not physically possible, I invite you to join my reminiscence as I return us to the early 1960’s, the genesis of my youth, those halcyon days at the dawn of the Space Race, just before the British Invasion.
If you’re new to my adventures, I’ll share with you that I am the first of six siblings. We half-dozen are spaced over an eight year birth-span encompassing the mid 1950’s to the early 1960’s. In those days, the U.S. economy was such that most fathers worked and most mothers could stay home and care for the children.
Our neighborhood was three half-acre parcels bordered on both sides by fairly large, open fields. The neighboring families both had two children; each with a boy and a girl. Those siblings were in the same grades as the three oldest in my family so we did have neighborhood playmates. Still, we found ourselves having to interact with our siblings many times throughout the day.
In those early, single-digit years, we were called in at dusk. Once my mother herded us through a bath and pajamas, we were together in the living room for some Huckleberry Hound before bedtime. And, of course, we were trapped in the house on rainy days and that could lead to myriad possibilities for disagreement.
Breakfast in the summertime was a random affair as we woke up at different times and grabbed our own cereal. We were usually called back together for lunch and most definitely for dinner. Most days we waited for my father to come home from work before we all ate, but sometimes he worked late and our mother fed us first. It was during those dinners that occurred the event I am about to relate.
My mother told us that when she was growing up, what she wanted to be more than anything was a mother. Obviously, she succeeded. But my mom was not just a mother. She was (and is) a wonderful mother. She took care of us. She cooked, cleaned, sewed clothing, did laundry, made beds, changed diapers, mended wounds and kissed those that did not require mending. She ironed my dad’s shirts and even the bed sheets. She drove me to Little League practice and games and drove my sisters to Brownies. And when she cooked soup, she lined six bowls up on the windowsill and stirred each until they had cooled enough for us to not burn a lip or tongue.
And how did we repay her for this love and caring? We argued and sniped at each other over the stupidest things.
Were it possible for me to return to my body at that dinner table, I would fold my little hands together and say, “Thank you, mother, for caring for me and loving me so dearly and deeply.”
Instead we engaged in a non-stop cacophony of finger-pointing and arguing over who looked at whom the wrong way or who got a bigger scoop of ice cream. As an adult, I refer to those arguments-long-past as our Din of Inequity. We argued with each other about anything and everything.
We even fought about who got the Bloomp Bloomp.
In those days, milk was still delivered a few mornings a week by the milk man from the local dairy. For you youngsters, the milk man had a route much like the paperboys of days gone by. They’d deliver half-gallons of milk, in bottles, in a wire carrier that could contain up to four bottles. The night before the milkman came, my mother would put out a number of empty milk bottles, and they’d be replaced by full ones.
Each of these bottles would be capped with a waxed cardboard stopper. You’d flip up a little tab with your fingernail and grasp the tab, pull upwards and the milk was opened. When you’d poured your desired amount, you’d replace the tab and place the bottle in the refrigerator until you needed it again. Sometimes those little waxed cardboard tops had riddles or a game for kids. I remember a long stretch when they came with a picture of a former U.S. President and I tried to collect them all.
We usually went through a half gallon of milk with each meal. So, as dinner was served, my mother would get an unopened bottle from the refrigerator and begin filling our cups. When a milk bottle was newly opened and tipped to pour, the air rushing in to replace the milk made a bloomp bloomp sound. But it only happened with the first cup of milk poured from a full bottle.
So we argued over who got the bloomp bloomp.
I kid you not.
One day, one of us, said, “Hey! How come they got the bloomp bloomp?!” That’s all it took. Each night we’d listen for the bloomp bloomp and complain that another kid got it instead of us! The ensuing nightly arguing and whining got to the point where my mother actually poured some of the milk back into the bottle after each cup so that all six cups got the bloomp bloomp! Can you believe that?
I’m not sure how often she did that or for how many nights it lasted. But, were I a child psychologist, I would have advised her to tell us that, if we didn’t knock it off, there’d be no milk. I may also have advised her to hit each of us multiple times in the head with a wooden spoon.
My mother would never have hit us. But I think you may agree that we probably had it coming. How in the name of Heaven did we ever decide to complain over whose cup got the milk that made a sound as it exited the bottle?
Never mind. I’m going to go hit myself in the head with a wooden spoon.