Childhood Rules

We were living in Italy and my father was working the midnight shift. My older brother and I were still fairly little and would go with my mother to the commissary on base so that our dad could have a quiet house in which to catch up on his sleep. The number one rule when my dad worked mids was NEVER WAKE UP YOUR FATHER! Unless one of us was bleeding, choking, or otherwise on the verge of dying and unable to get our mother’s help, we never woke up our father. Ever.

One afternoon upon returning from the commissary, I dutifully helped my mother bring in the groceries. Brian and I were such good helpers, and very quiet, too. In fact, my mom treated us that afternoon by buying us a six-pack of Hubba Bubba grape bubblegum. After mom and Brian went back out for more bags and I was alone in the kitchen, I discreetly closed the front door and proceeded to quickly eat the gum. All thirty pieces.

Meanwhile, my mother kept trying to get inside the house with the rest of the groceries (and my brother, too) but it turned out the front door had been locked when I closed it in my moment of deceitfulness. My mom continually begged for me (in a whisper, of course – remember the number one rule?) to open the door yet I had to remind the silly woman that I was only four years old and wasn’t allowed to open the door, for anyone. That rule was the number one rule when my father worked a normal daytime shift.  But for the moment, it was the number two rule, right behind that day’s number one rule – never wake up your father.

The mood changed suddenly when, in a moment of crazed frustration (because why else would my mother have suggested such a thing…), she instructed me to go wake up my father. The woman had obviously lost her mind. Again, I reminded her of the number one rule and refused to wake him up.  And, yes…I still refused to open the front door for her, too.

Here is where things get fuzzy: I don’t remember how my mother got back inside the house. A part of me wants to say that she and my brother walked to a neighbor’s house, to ask for help from someone who had a telephone, and she called my father to let him know she was locked out. In the meantime, I sat on the kitchen countertops, swinging my legs back and forth in blissful contentment and my cheeks fat with flavorful gum.

I’m not sure how long this dragged on for but I do know that I got through every single piece of gum in the pack and had one of those most glorious afternoons of my entire life (to this day, even!). It’s probably best that my memory of that afternoon ends there so it is never ruined by the inevitable punishment that was surely handed down to me.


This is, by far, my daughter’s favorite story from my childhood. Oh, I have plenty more but I would hate to give her any ideas about snooping for Christmas gifts or setting anyone’s backyard on fire. The hijacking of a six-pack of bubblegum is both innocent and criminal enough, for now.


2 thoughts on “Childhood Rules

    • There is controversy over this memory of mine. I remember it one way, my brother (partner in crime) remembers NONE of it. I learned how to strike a match from somebody!

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