Just as the word delicious does not serve to describe all the complex flavors and textures of chocolate, strong-willed does not serve to describe my willful, obstinate behavior as a child.
On a summer’s evening when I was three-years-old, at church camp of all places, my mother came to understand the full extent of my No Surrender policy. A policy I cling to still. Retreat is not in my dictionary. I go down with the ship, and have nearly drown. Many times.
The camp was mostly rustic with unheated, un-airconditioned clapboard buildings. Electricity and community indoor plumbing made up the modern conveniences. Nightly camp-wide church services convened in the Tabernacle, an open air, wooden structure with cement floors and hard benches that in no way resembled its namesake, Solomon’s opulent Tabernacle of the Bible.
Despite the sparseness of the meeting place, campers wore church clothes to evening service. This was 1978. Your least ripped pair of jeans and nicest Ichthys t-shirt didn’t cut it. Church clothes were dresses or skirts for the females, and slacks and collared shirts for the males.
Yes, men wore slacks in the ’70s. *Shudder.*
Readying me for the evening, my mother bathed off me the grime and sweat a three-year-old acquires running around a hot, dusty campground in July. She braided my hair, and dressed me in some sweet frock, likely ruffled and laced. On my freshly scrubbed feet were white sandals.
We set off down the gravel path to the Tabernacle, my father already there helping prepare for the night.
Fate is a cruel temptress with little mercy for small, blonde girls. That afternoon rain fell, leaving murky puddles in the pits along the walkway. My mother squeezed harder on my little hand when she saw me eye the mud puddles.
Oooh, there was nothing I liked better than splashing in a nice, juicy puddle!
I pulled on her arm, veering dangerously close to one of those wet craters.
“You stay out of those mud puddles,” my mother warned.
My feet went in the direction of my eyes, ever closer to danger.
“CeeGee Rebecca Graybill! If you jump in that puddle I will spank you!”
Corporal punishment was still acceptable in and out of public in 1978, not yet banished by child psychologists and political correctness. Even in front of the Midwestern, Evangelical, Holiness version of God’s temple.
It was too much for my undeveloped impulse control.
I broke free of her hand.
I jumped as high and hard as I could into that brown, slimy pool!!
Oh, sweet relief!!!
Before the filthy water droplets settled on the ruffle of my skirt, my mother plucked me from the mire, placed me on dry ground and swatted my Pink-Panther-Underoos-clad-behind in front of other campers.
I dissolved into tears over the sting on my bottom and smack to my ego.
Dismayed my mother asked, “I told you if you jumped in that mud puddle I would spank you. Why did you do it?”
I looked up, tear-filled eyes meeting her questioning ones, and said with frightening conviction, “It was worth it.”
Is it any wonder my parents stopped at one child?