I always wanted to be good kid. But I liked terrorizing my babysitter much better.
My babysitter, Miss Ruth, was elderly woman with grey hair in a neat bun. She had an affinity for mannish pantsuits and she always smelled suspiciously of saltine crackers.
She really didn’t have anyone in her life. She talked mostly about her cats and found escapism in afternoon soaps such as Another World and Days of Our Lives.
But it was this afternoon that I had found myself in the time-out corner on my parents’ couch. Miss Ruth, fed up finally with my 6-year-old terrorism, had decided to call my father at work. She wanted him to spank me and teach me a lesson.
I couldn’t say in the past that I didn’t deserve it.
There was that time that Miss Ruth allowed me to watch Another World with her bridge team. And instead of sitting on the couch like a good little boy, I decided to mimic the sex scenes displayed onscreen in my Sesame Street playhouse.
I would strip down, completely naked in Sesame Street playhouse’s bright green plastic facade, and would then nestle up beside my Garfield pillow.
“I’ve always loved you,” I would tell my Garfield pillow, gently stroking the smirking cat face as I whispered sweet nothings in its ear. “And I’m never going to leave you, never ever!”
Miss Ruth stumbled upon my bare 6-year-old butt, humping the Garfield pillow.
“Joe, what in tarnation do you think you’re doing?” she asked. She was mortified and suffice to say, her bridge team was never invited back.
Now, you would think that I would be indebted to Ms. Ruth. She mentioned nary a peep about my sexual intercourse with the Garfield pillow to my father.
But again, it was today that I found myself on the couch, awaiting my father’s fists of justice. I had never really been spanked before. My ass was hankerin’ for a spankerin’.
“You’re going to sit there and wait for your father, too,” Ms. Ruth said, peering down from behind her Benjamin Franklin glasses as she glanced over the pages of The Nashville Banner. She wet her thumb and crooked her finger through pages of the Style section.
“No six-year-old child of mine is going to urinate in my Metamucil and expect to get away with it.”
The clock ticked in painstaking seconds. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest, collapsing around my lungs. It was the moment of eminent doom, lurking around the corner.
And Ms. Ruth sat there for every sweet second, leafing through the Nashville Banner as she eyed the clock.
That elderly woman with grey hair in a neat bun and an affinity for mannish pantsuits, that always smelled suspiciously of saltine crackers. She still doesn’t have anyone in her life, a mere 18 years later.
Ms. Ruth now lives in a dingy retirement center. She lost her cat to the mange, so
she rarely has things to talk about. Another World was canned back in 1999 by NBC Daytime execs, in search of that ever elusive “younger” demographic.
But I go over to the retirement home on occasion. I remind Ms. Ruth of the times we shared over a brittle tin can of crackers—the Garfield pillow, Carolyn Crudell and yes, pissing in her Metamucil.
Because to paraphrase her beloved soap, I’ve come to realize a very important lesson in all of this: “No one should live in this world alone.”