I used to joke that the reason I was immune to most peer pressure is that I knew somehow, some way, no matter how inconceivable, if I dared to stray from the straight and narrow, my mother would find out. Yes, my own disposition lent itself to good behavior, but were I ever tempted to rebel in the slightest, I had years’ worth of experience to know that woman was some kind of freaking sorceress when it came to her children and their missteps.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. I am confident that my seemingly-omniscient mother kept me from making a handful of stupid mistakes in my teen years. I aspire to convince my own children that I know and see all, for their sakes as well as my own. The groundwork for this illusion is being built every day, in fact. (insert maniacal laughter)
But there was this one time, this one, magnificent occasion, where I got away with something.
When we were younger, my parents would host parties from time to time for my father’s colleagues. As these were for grown ups only, my dad would carry the only household television into the den, tinker with the rabbit ears until we got a decent picture, and stuff us full of popcorn. We’d watch whatever movie was available on public television and then head off to bed.
On one of these occasions, we were happily plunked on the floor, probably watching Wizard of Oz, when the picture started to go wonky. We weren’t to disturb our parents, and since I didn’t have the patience required to wait until one of their periodic check-ins, I decided that I would rise to the occasion and adjust the antennae myself.
As was usually the case, the twins attempted to talk me out of my stupidity, to no avail. I was seven years old, darnit, and I could save us all. I’d seen the grown ups do this a hundred times, how hard could it be?
Being a short kid, I had a time of it attempting to even reach the long, metal pieces, so I focused my attentions on the lowest bits which stuck out of the back. I kept at it for a while, relying on my sidekicks to let me know if I was on the right track. And just as I had nearly finished saving the evening, I heard and felt a dull snap.
Complete and utter panic ensued. In my zeal, my weak little hands had broken the plastic piece which attached the antennae to the television. My heart beat fast, my hands shaking and clammy, I wonder how I didn’t pass out at that moment. We started to brainstorm plausible explanations, but came up empty. My only option was to prop it up like nothing happened and hope no one noticed.
And so we waited.
Not much long after, my parents sent us off to bed. I can remember lying there, wondering when the hammer would fall. Would it be at breakfast? Perhaps I would be woken up in the morning and interrogated? Would all three of us manage to keep the secret?
But something so completely and utterly bizarre happened that next day. I came down the stairs, walking as slow as possible, dreading the fate I would meet, and there in the living room was the television, bunny ears extended toward the sky. Was this a trap? Or had I dreamed the whole tragic mess? No, I didn’t think so. But why weren’t my parents interrogating us? No sense was to be made.
Hours gave way to days, and eventually my heartbeat returned to a healthy rhythm. And every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of the duct tape holding the antennae on and wonder how it is that I got away with breaking it.
Finally, one afternoon after we had moved overseas and back again, I heard my parents talking as they were setting up our furniture. It was then that I had beer to thank for my fortuitous escape from punishment. It turns out that my father had one too many and decided to move the television out of the den that night before going to bed and regaining sobriety. He was operating under the delusion that HE had broken the bunny ears clean off the television!
Oh thank you, glorious, glorious beer.