Maybe the worst phrase I ever heard as a child was “Keep crying and I will give you something to cry about.”
The second worst phrase was, “We’re having oyster stew for dinner and you are most certainly going to eat it.”
The latter was usually said before the former and was the direct causation of the former being said.
Both phrases can be attributed to my grandmother.
I have zero proof of this, but I am pretty sure Granny was the originator of the dreading crying phrase.
It’s a horrible, dreadful thing to say to a child.
I wasn’t even quite sure what she meant the first time I heard it.
Wasn’t the fact that I was evidently in some kind of distress or turmoil enough?
She thought I needed something else to cry about?
Was what she was going to give me make me wail against the wall?
But, being the smart alecky, sassy little girl I was, I of course had to poke the bear.
“W-what are you going to give me?” I asked between my sobs.
The old gal tightened her jaw and said, “You keep carrying on and you will find out.”
The threat – even though it was of unknown severity – was enough to usually make me suck my lip back up and get quiet. I may have been sassy, but I wasn’t stupid.
She held the promise of giving me something to really, truly cry about over my head most of my life.
It’s probably why now, I am one of those closet wailers, crying in private and never wanting anyone to see my tears, least the promise was made good.
One day, when having a teeny, tiny hissie fit, Granny reminded me she could give me something to really cry over.
“Like what exactly?” I asked. “You have been saying this for years. What exactly are you going to do? You are just all talk.”
I had done the unthinkable. I had shocked the old gal into silence.
She glared at me full of venom.
“You have no idea what I am capable of,” she said before she stormed away.
I somehow had sassed and lived to tell about it.
Counting myself as lucky, I tried to stay out of her way for a while. Like about a year.
I lived in fear, because there was no telling what kind of Granny-meanness she had in store to prove me wrong.
One day, I got brave and was sassing her about something – I can’t even remember what it was, but a sass had been invoked.
I didn’t cry though. I knew better.
“What did you say?” she asked.
That was not a request to repeat it. No, she was giving me the opportunity to apologize or maybe even a five second head start to run.
Not being the brightest at times, especially when my sassy mouth had overtaken any common sense, I repeated it.
“I’ve got a right mind to wring your neck,” she said.
“Oh, you wring necks? Is this like giving me something to cry about?”
The look she gave me would have stopped a charging bull in its tracks. Probably because the bull would have had the sense to be scared.
“Hateful, spiteful child,” she seethed.
I retreated to the sanctity of my room.
She couldn’t wring someone’s neck. That was just a saying, I was certain.
A few days later, Granny declared she was going to get chicken from one of her brothers for dinner.
She came home with chicken, but, it was not fried or baked. Nope, this chicken was still alive.
I still wonder how she got that thing in the car.
Pop looked out the back door.
“I thought you was getting a bucket of chicken, Helen,” he said. “What is this?”
“It’s going to be dinner, Bob,” she said as she tied her apron around her waist.
“It’s still got feathers on it,” my grandfather stated.
“For now, it does,” she said.
My grandfather and I watched her head outside to take on the chicken.
Surely, she wasn’t serious? This was a joke, right?
Granny stood in the middle of the back yard, with the chicken frantically running around her.
She told it to stop, which it didn’t. It was a chicken, after all. And probably knew her plans for deep frying.
Of course, the fact the chicken not doing as she told it made her angry. She watched it stealthily before she reached out and grabbed it.
Given the voracity and torque of her grip, that poor chicken may have been on the receiving end of some the anger that was directed towards me.
It took me a while to eat chicken after that.
I didn’t tell Mama about all of this until recently.
“If it makes you feel any better, she used to say that to me and Bobby,” she said when I mentioned the crying phrase. “Sometimes, she liked to blow a lot of hot air.”
“Yeah, but she threatened to wring my neck one day,” I began. “Let me tell you about what she did to that poor chicken…”
Mama was horrified.
We both agreed – it was a good thing we never did find out what it was she was going to give us to really cry about.