Mother The Bully Slayer
She slew him with a word, and I saved face
by Matt Makowski
With any luck, your brain has tucked your first encounter with a bully deep within the inaccessible recesses of your cerebral cortex. Oddly enough, mine remains in a user-friendly region, due in no small part to the outcome. Less important details, however, have been lost.
I was picked on by a blond-haired fifth-grader, who in my memory, was as big as any football-playing college kid and probably shaved every morning. It happened just past the school grounds and safety patrol of my elementary school. I don’t remember being hurt, but embarrassment welled up in my eyes.
A friend with whom I often walked partway home from school came all the way home with me that day. When my mother saw the red eyes that I tried too forcefully to rub all the tears out of, she did what any mother would do.
I did none of the talking. My friend told her that I was bullied and gave just enough details on the perpetrator to motivate her. The three of us got in the car and went looking for the ogre who brought me to tears. I sat in the backseat. Humiliation kept my mouth mostly shut.
I don’t know where young boys learn it, but somewhere, early on, it is ingrained into schoolboys that you don’t let your mother fight your battles. That was the humiliation that kept me from wanting to get into the car, and then not wanting to finger the tyrant who made me cry. My friend had no such hesitation, and he directed from the front seat of the Colt Vista the turns my mother should make. He knew exactly the path my tormenter took home everyday.
Inklings of arguments formed in my head about why we should stop looking for the bully, but none came out. As we made a right turn on Dawson Road the street my friend lived on the bully and his gang of hooligans appeared.
The first part of my argument finally came out of my mouth: “Mom, don’t worry about it,” and that was it. I forgot to think about the “why” part of an argument. Then my friend fingered the villain.
Tears of humiliation welled up again as we pulled next to the bully.
Then my mom got out of the car.
This is where another hazy part of the memory gets lost. I don’t remember what she said; only that she said the right thing. To my surprise, she knew about the Mom’s-don’t-fight-their-son’s-battles code, and she didn’t play the overbearing mom. I remember only her use of a single profanity. It was just enough to intimidate the blond-haired bully, and in the process, save my face. Whatever else she said, it made the bully cry.
The next day in school, my friend told everyone about the confrontation. When the story got around the playground at recess the next day, my mom was a hero and I was just an accessory, as opposed to the milksop I could have been.
It turns out that our villain was a serial bully, and my mother had breathed hope into my third-grade class. That’s the last memory I have of our bully. But more importantly, I know that was my final altercation with the pernicious bully and for that, I thank my mom.
Happy Mother’s Day.