Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bonnie Fallon: Responsibility

"My mother queried my father: 
'Do you intend that your daughters
 grow up to be warriors?' 
I'll never forget his response."

Is taking responsibility a personality construct present at conception? If not, Mom and Dad got it embedded in me at an early age. Being the oldest daughter of three may have pressed the cognition. In any case, I have watched with amazement throughout my life the people who have no instinct for responsibility. Their inaction, when faced with the need for immediate decision making or effective preplanning, seems to stem from abject fear, or apathy.

One day during the winter of the fifth grade (my sisters then being first and third graders), we were walking the mile to school. Up rose, from behind a stone wall, a group of boys from my grade, pelting us with snowballs. The girls were scared.

When Dad got home from work, I told him about it. He took us outdoors even though supper was ready.

"George! Not now."

"It won't take long. They can't put up with this."

As he fashioned a target out of cardboard, he told me, "You have to meet boys on their terms and beat them at their own game."

He showed my sisters how to quickly make small, hard snowballs. He worked with me on my throwing ability. The idea was to focus my energy on efficient speed and accuracy. If my projectiles didn't get those boys in the kisser, I wasn't going to have any effect. About an hour's instruction on arm positioning and body stance to gain the most velocity was enough to have me hitting the bull's eye most of the time. The girls were so busy making snowballs for me that they hadn't time to think about their fear.

Several times mom called out, "George! Supper's getting cold." Once she queried, "Do you intend that your daughters grow up to be warriors?"

I'll never forget his response. "Yes! They need to be able to handle things."

The next day we trudged down North Road with alertness. I don't remember if I was afraid, but I was ready. Susie, the first grader, was scared. Leila was her stoic self.

"All you have to do is make me good snowballs fast," I coached.

There they were, behind their wall. We crouched down on the road side of the plowed low snowbank. The battle was on. The girls were great, and I was totally focused on blamming every one of them in the head.

Sixty years after the fact I don't know how many there were. Maybe six? It seemed like a phalanx. In fairly short order, they crept away from their wall. We were all late for school and had to stay after. Mom was furious. Dad was gleeful and congratulatory to all three of us. After all, a battle can't be fought without ammunition.

We never had any more trouble from boys. Pete Gilman and I shared leadership of our small class pack after that. How my delight that day in subduing the "enemy" jibes with my adult hatred and disgust with war in general is a mystery.

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