Literary, September 2023

The Supreme Court of Mom

By Seán Malone and John Sweetman

As John remembers:

“He hit me!”  

“She was making faces at me!” 

“I was not!” 

“He was making fart noises with his armpit!”  

And so convened the daily district court of summary justice where the prosecutor, defense council, and detective agency was all in one. MOM! Mom interrupted her laundry-hanging job and quickly rendered an unappealable decision: “Go bring the basket of laundry out!  And you!  Go finish your weeding!”  

Decision rendered. I traipsed off, somewhat miffed that my newly developed useless new skill of “arm farts” was so unjustly received. It had taken me and my friend Gene Amundsen weeks to perfect the talent, and I sure learned a lesson. The lesson was, “never show off useless talent to a blabber mouth sister.” From then on, we only did these things to a “select” few. Very few. That is, Gene and me. 

Moms were especially good at detective work. “Who left that towel on the floor with dirty handprints?” 

“Not me!”  

“I didn’t do it!” And the pathetic, but gratuitous excuses followed in predictable sequence.   

“…Show me your hands! Both hands!” And the Mom’s Detective Agency zoomed right in on the guilty party. Long before scientific lie detector gear came into usage, moms were way ahead of the curve. Trial and sentencing were swift and effective. “Go do your chores and feed the chickens!” Which usually was my sister’s job.  

Corporal punishment was rare, but occasionally administered with a hazelnut branch that you were ordered to cut yourself. The pain was minimal, but one time, I remember I got a couple of whacks for some conflict between my sister and myself, and the pain was mostly seeing her off around a corner making faces at me while I hollered! I was innocent! I was framed! I had an alibi! I wasn’t there! Later, I learned that this came to be known as “the Bart Simpson” defense strategy.  

Small misdemeanors were treated in instant, “district” court, but while “fibbing” was somewhat more serious, actual lying went to the “Supreme Court” of … “Wait till your father gets home.”  At that point, the warning signs of real consequences became ominous. Judge Mom and Chief Justice Dad would confer and lay down some rendering that was final and unappealable. While Dad might mitigate the judgement based upon sincere regret of the case in point, the judgement, once made, was never reversed entirely. 

Lying was considered to be one of the most serious of offenses, as was causing trouble on the school bus. Lying about a bad action such as stealing a bit of candy from the store compounded the penalty by an order of magnitude. Maybe that’s why these bad things were rare for us. 

September 7, 2023

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