F is for Forsythia

I love forsythia, their delicate yellow flowers with the barely detected scent.   What I didn’t like, when I was a kid, was the fact that a forsythia branch was the means by which punishment was enforced in our home.  While my mother had a Master’s degree in verbal tongue-lashing, my father was in charge of physical discipline.  Thus the switch, a solid forsythia branch, was frequently applied to my or my brother’s posterior by my Dad, with varying degrees of force and frequency depending on the infraction.  “Wait ‘til your father gets home,” was an ominous sign of things to come.

My uncle was of like mind with Dad, but he applied a belt to my cousins. The belt was an old black leather strap that hung in the kitchen closet in their home, but which traveled with them to Plymouth each summer, when they came to visit us.  My brother and I swore that what we experienced was the worse than what our cousins endured, and part of each visit involved a lengthy recounting of recent times the belt and switch had been used, the infractions that had called for their use, and the virtues of each form of punishment.  All this ended during one of the cousin invasions when, exasperated to the limit by our behavior, our respective fathers gave us the choice: switch or belt.

The cousins all sat down on the kitchen floor and recommenced our discussion of the merits of each of these instruments of torture.  The dads watched on in amusement for a while, then demanded an answer. I remember saying, “I think I’ll take the switch,” to which my cousins replied, “We’re okay with the belt.”

Later that evening, our backsides smarting from the latest insult, we collectively decided not to discuss our different forms of punishment again, just in case discussing them might somehow elicit their use.

My husband and I planted forsythia along our driveway, but I never once cut a switch when my kids were growing up. Not that I didn’t think about it.



2 thoughts on “F is for Forsythia”

  1. You vacationed in Plymouth MA? I am from Cape Cod and living in Buzzards Bay now. I love Plymouth. Boy you sure can’t get away with physical discipline these days, even though I don’t think a swat on the ass is abuse.

  2. Oh my, is that what that bush is called? Ahh, memories. We just always called it ‘the switch bush’. Upon committing an infraction, we were instructed ‘go break me off a switch.’ We learned through experience that longer switches hurt less than the short ones. We had no clue of the mechanics of it, of distribution of force, but emperically we found our way to lower the pain threshold. Trouble was once we found out about that and started breaking off longer and longer switches, the parental unit in question would look us in the eye, say ‘this one is a bit too long’ and break it in half before application. This brought a mind game into the picture of ‘how long can I make it and not have them break it in two?’ I wouldn’t have a forsythia in my yard now if I was paid to.

    Great post and a great reminder of what a different world it is now.

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