I once colored a picture of crabs carrying sand buckets, wrote a caption underneath it, “Now I have crabs, too!” and gifted it to my dad. Because of his t-shirt, “I got crabs in Ocean City, Maryland,” I knew he would just LOVE my picture. Problem was, he didn’t realize I was too young to know what “crabs” were, and when he looked at my artwork with disdain for my blatant inappropriate behavior, my heart smashed into a thousand pieces. He eventually explained himself, but allowed my mom to do the crabs explaining, and when I read today’s Oversharer’s piece, it made me wonder is she ever worked out the whole “Here, Dad, I got you some porn” thing. I imagine it was fairly awkward…
It was a Saturday afternoon and my cousin had come over to play. I was maybe eight or nine and she was a year or two older. Somehow we found ourselves alone in the house for the day and came up with a brilliant plan -or so it seemed at the time. We headed to the tiny corner newsagent’s and decided to explore the ‘back’ of the shop, where the adult glossies were on display. We had displaced any shoppers who were mortified at our close proximity, leaving us free to grab a copy of Playboy. We never stopped to consider that being girls, Playgirl might have been more appropriate. The shopkeeper raised his eyebrows slightly but money is money, and he brown bagged our purchase.
Back home, we closed my parents’s bedroom door and sprawled on their bed to check out our illicit magazine. After a short stint of gawking and giggling, we realized we had no idea how to dispose of the incriminating evidence. With her parents’ imminent arrival, we figured stuffing it at the bottom of a drawer under some disused train sets in an white chest so rarely accessed, it’s kept in a closet among many other old castoffs, was a good holding place. This was a location that had not seen the light of day for years, and I figured an opportunity would arise for me to get rid of the magazine in due course.
Fast forward nine months and I had completely forgotten about the magazine. My mother, who saved Sundays for cleaning, decided over breakfast that ‘we really must clean out that closet upstairs.’ As we walked up the stairs, my heart raced as I recalled what was hidden inside.
Any little blond angelic girl in her right mind would have enthusiastically helped her mother, letting her come to the conclusion that the porn mag belonged to one, or even both, of her older brothers. But guilt does strange things. I placed myself as a barrier between my mother and the offending chest with arms outstretched like a giant starfish and begged: “you mustn’t open this!” Now’s probably a good time to mention that my mother is a conservative French Catholic. I’d never even seen her undressed in the privacy of her bathroom.
My mother pushed me aside and started riffling rapidly through the drawer. And then she stopped. Just like that. Ever so slowly, she pulled out the Playboy and started turning the pages. Her face was utterly expressionless and matching her pearly white bathrobe. The next 30 seconds crept by like a Sunday afternoon of golf. She said nothing. The silence was my undoing.
“I bought it as a gift for Pop.”
What on earth was I thinking?! Oh I know…that she would throw it out and never utter another word. I trust she was shocked beyond belief to have responded:
“Well go give it to him then.”
I am amazed to this day that I didn’t die of embarrassment then and there. Instead, with every cell in my body urging me to run out the door and never come back, I made my way down the stairs to where my father was taking a leisurely bath. I knocked and explained that I had a gift for him. He sounded surprised and asked me to wait a second. I heard the shower curtain hooks gliding along the aluminum rail as he pulled it shut, followed by an “ok, ready.” I entered, holding out the magazine baton styled; his water wrinkled hand emerged and grasped the magazine. The silence was only interrupted by the turning of pages, a brief pause followed by a perplexed “thank you.”
A year so so later, when pre-recorded phone sex calls were launched, my latchkey friends and I still found all of this fascinating. Only this time I knew better than to speak up after a thick AT&T phone bill was shoved under our door. Instead, this little angel hung her brother out to dry.
Cordelia is a writer, researcher, multilingual homeschooling mother, former sailing instructor, with a past in environmental science and social innovation. Her blog is Multilingual Mama, and she also writes for In Culture Parent and, when she feels the need to cut loose, posts over at BluntMoms. Cordelia was recently published in the anthology Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness, and when you’re done reading “her” book, find her on various social media: