Springtime on Old Clairton Road was heralded by the jubilant chorus of vibrant pink blossoms that burst from the branches of the large crab-apple tree in our front yard. The color was so stunning, and the branches so thickly packed with soft newborn petals that it became a source of pride for me; like I wanted to stand on the sidewalk outside our house and wave at passing cars, a sort of gracious princess-like acknowledgment to the general populace that we were humbly willing to share our aesthetic bounty. Springtime, however, was short lived and before we got our fill of the art-worthy spectacle, the blossoms had fallen in a soft pink blanket onto the grass under the tree, replaced by plain old average green leaves and annoying little inedible berries that stained our walkway in the autumn.
That old tree was made for little girls. Semi-awkward little girls like me, who eventually fell from its branches and broke their arms. But that’s another story.
It was in that tree that I let loose a string of the “s” word, aimed in a tenor of intense irritation at my brother, or sister, I don’t recall which; they were all irritating off and on. I, myself, was never irritating.
I remember exactly how it felt. I was super miffed at something someone was saying, like they were taunting me or something, or telling some sort of untruth. I can conjure up an image of myself up there in the woody play-land where we regularly climbed, my leg locked in the joint between branches, my flat chest leaning into another branch, yelling “No sir! No sir! NO SIR!”
Whomever-it-was kept taunting, pushing like an anxious thumb on the top end of a Bic pen - click, click, click - until finally, I just let loose. It came spurting out, and once it was released it sort of repeated and repeated and repeated getting louder with each repetition.
“I’m telling Mom!” came chiming back at me, to which I boldly responded, “Go AHEAD!”
And, as misfortune would have it, just at that very moment, our mother poked her head out the kitchen door on the side of the house. She had likely been listening from the kitchen window. I’ve been a mom and listened in on such conversations, curious to see what would come out in the truth part of the game of Truth or Dare between siblings. I think she stopped listening and took action when it came down to the “s” word…the word… which in reality is two words, which I never realized because I thought it was just one swear word. I was called into the house, taken into the bathroom and given the distinct opportunity to taste bar soap, an all too familiar occurrence in my young life.
But really, I was willing to taste it. I put my shoulders back, even with angry tears streaming down my face, because something in me insisted that the alternative words were not strong enough.
I mean, really, when you’re angry, because justice has been offended, “Be Quiet!” just isn’t strong enough, even if you’re yelling it. Though I knew I must face the consequence should I be caught by the powers that be, the situation demanded the use of stronger language. It was the kind of interchange where only the hard stuff would work…the forbidden words…
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!"
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!"
Forgive me Mom. I respect what you taught me, and I almost never use that term, though I must admit there has been a time or two in this current political cycle where the old “S” word has slipped from my tongue. But somehow, I think, if you were here, you would understand.