|This is worth getting out of bed for.|
The aroma of bacon in the morning takes me back to childhood school days. Mom would
come into the bedroom I shared with my brother and wake us.
“Time to get up, boys.”
At that moment, groaning and going back to sleep was what I wanted. Then, the smell of bacon wafted in the door. It was enticing in a way that no maternal pleading could match. We didn’t have bacon all that often. It was a treat, really. But it sure made getting out of bed a whole lot easier.
I remember one morning in particular when I was in about 5th grade. I had gotten dressed and headed out to the front of our trailer, following the scent of bacon. Our compact eight foot square kitchen-dining room had just enough space opposite the stove and sink for a small circular table that we used for most meals. The bacon was crisp and on my plate, bread was in the toaster, an egg was sizzling pleasantly in the skillet where the bacon had been fried. A single mom had little time to spare on weekday mornings with four kids to send off to their various destinations before she left for work. So she often started breakfast cooking, then we would have to finish the job. If you want to eat, there is a strong incentive to keep an eye on the stove and the toaster. The toast popped up and I slathered some butter on it while the egg neared over-medium perfection. Mom disappeared to finish getting ready for work.
Soon my egg was done. I turned off the gas burner and scooped it up with the spatula to transfer it to my plate. Unfortunately, the same bacon grease that made it easy to get the egg out of the skillet was just as effective in reducing the friction co-efficient between the egg and my plate. The egg kept right on going when it hit the plate, sliding off and plummeting down to the floor at my feet. A yellow explosion of yolk with bits of grease-coated egg-white splattered my shoes and the linoleum floor. In a frozen moment of time, several realities hit me: I had a mess to clean up; I had wasted food; there wasn’t time to cook another egg; I had barely enough time to eat breakfast before I had to leave for the bus stop; my morning routine was shattered.
|Did that just come out of MY mouth?|
And I swore like a sailor.
Well, maybe not precisely as a sailor would have sworn if a sailor had been in my egg-besotted sneakers, because I hadn’t been around sailors enough to know how one swore. What I did swear like was a school-aged boy who not only learned formal English in school, but during recess also acquired a repertoire of colorful words not found in the grammar book. In fact, the group of boys I hung out with had developed a skill of seeing how many different swear words they could string together without taking a breath. So, what goes in must come out. Or, as the Man from Galilee said, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18). My anger and frustration had burst out in colorful language matching the colorful mess on the floor.
As I turned to put my plate on the table, I noticed Mom had reappeared in the front of the trailer. I looked at her and she looked at me. Instinctively, instantly, I knew I done something far worse than dumping my egg on the floor. I had disappointed Mom. A deep sorrow welled up in my gut. I was ashamed. Ashamed that Mom had heard those words; words that no-one should ever hear, but especially not Mom. Ashamed that the boy that could recite his Sunday School memory verse without fail was exposed as a sham. Tears began to roll down my face, I crumpled into a chair head in hands and the only words I could get out of my mouth were “I’m sorry.” Over and over.
Mom’s just know things. It is why they are mothers. She put a hand on my shoulder and quietly said,
“It’s only an egg.”
We both knew it was more than just an egg, but that short phrase let me know that she still loved her boy, even in his fallen state. Then, she told me to eat the rest of my breakfast while she cleaned up my mess. The act of biting and chewing calmed my aching heart. Mom wiped up the egg with an efficiency I marveled at while I sniffled over my hasty meal.
Not much more was said about that outburst of mine. I had a school bus to catch, Mom had to get to work. But I never forgot.
Over forty years later, when movies and songs and books and magazines and electronic text are heavily weighted with the profane, my childhood incident seems so trivial. Shame is an outdated notion in this era of self-actualization where being true to yourself is more important than who you might offend in the process; where people flaunt their indiscretions on talk shows and Facebook. But it seems to me that in ridding ourselves of shame, we have lost some fundamental dignity, both in how we view ourselves and how we treat others.
Those unprintable words I learned in childhood are etched deeply into my neural network. I still have moments of muttering #&@!% in moments of anger or frustration. The sad truth is, there are things I have done since that day that are far more shameful. The best inside of me is still tainted. Yet, I am grateful that those experiences have not cauterized my conscience, but instead have been lessons in forgiveness like that early one Mom taught me. And forgiveness is nothing to be ashamed of.