Dad was an inshore fisherman who was away from home most of the day.  Mom,  like most women in the sixties, stayed at home with four kids. Fortunately, the two oldest started working as soon as they could — such responsible young men. That left “Francis the Teaser” and “Melda the Tattler” at home. We were more than mischievous, we were just plain rotten to the core.

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I have a theory that Mom and Dad ran out of steam after raising two older sons, so when we came along they naively thought, “How bad could they be?”  (Never ask this question.) Over the years, Mom uttered more warnings and threats than I can remember, but nothing could deter us. We persisted. Francis kept on teasing and I ramped up the tattling. We could have won the Olympic gold medal for persistence.

Our living room had an unusual feature ― two archways which served as a constant temptation for us to run around and around in circles. The noise level kept building until Mom arrived on the scene and yelled,
Stop that running around before you end up in the cellar.”
The habit continued to the next generation until, once again, Nanny warned the grandchildren,
Stop that running around before you end up in the cellar.”

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As well as tattling and teasing, we whined, whinged, cried, nagged and fought about everything. Nuisances, that’s what we were, common every day nuisances. Mom was not particularly sympathetic to our cause. When she could no longer stand it she yelled, “Stop that cryin’ or I’ll give you something to cry about.” We knew what that meant ― knock it off or expect a lickin’. Time-outs had not yet been invented.

Francis and I thought EVERYTHING was funny – the sillier the better. Standing on our heads in the corner was a favourite activity. (We may have incurred permanent brain damage from spending too much time on our heads.) Mom did not share our sense of humour and scolded, “You birds are laughing now. Before long, you’ll be laughing on the other side of your face.” In a matter of minutes, the situation deteriorated into name-calling and hair-pulling and, yes, we were laughing on the other side of our faces.

Picking on each other was one of our favourite pastimes. I knew how to push Francis’ buttons and he knew how to bug me the most. We loved to mimic each other’s words in annoying voices. It would go down something like this:

Yes, ignoring him worked, but it always got worse before it got better. Imagine my surprise, years later, when I learned in a child psychology class the proper term for ignoring behaviour is “extinction.”

I admit we did not know when to stop. We kept it up until Mom issued the most fearsome warning of all, “Just wait until your father gets home.” That got our attention. We froze on the spot, grabbed our coats and rubber boots and took off outside.

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