It’s over. The last barrier shattered. Apparently the thirst for victory trumps all scruples around here. As of this moment in the moral universe, the Smith family stands for . . . absolutely nothing.
Let me explain. Mom and I were playing our weekly Scrabble game and I had a slight lead. But the board’s triple-word square was suddenly in play and it was her turn.
She scanned her tiles, murmuring to herself through her mask, and then brightened. “This is a word, right?” She laid down her choices and began counting up: “Four plus one one one; that’s seven. Times three – I get 21!”
I gaped at her, blushing right down to my toenails. “Mom! You can’t use the word FART!”
I’m not kidding you. Sometimes I do exaggerate, but this is a true story, folks. My flesh-and-blood mother, who led me in childhood prayers and who served as a missionary to Thailand for 17 years, had spelled out the scarlet word forever on the General Conference Banned List. But now she was the childlike picture of innocence. “Why not?”
“‘Cause it’s evil! It’s nasty!” I pulled out of the cobwebbed family archives my departed dad’s blanket condemnation of all words with scatological overtones.
Now, the fact is that any family with four red-blooded American sons, no daughters, is going to vibrate with the daily reality of flatulence. Some days that’s about all we did. We had nights around the dinner table that rivaled that gassy scene in Mel Brooks’ irreverent movie spoof, “Blazing Saddles.” We sang “Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit” in bilingual harmony. We often exchanged the 1965 version of fist bumps for exceptional rumbles: “Good one, Danny!” “Oh, man. Who cut the cheese?” “Yow, that’s a stinker!” (This was all said with machismo admiration but always feigned as pious indignation.)
The reality though, was that the above-mentioned word (it still makes me blush to even type it) was the ultimate F-bomb in our house, in more ways than one. We didn’t actually verbalize the word F-RT, because we had access to forty zillion Thai euphemisms for the same social transgression. I’m not going to reveal them here because my brothers and I still take mission trips over to Chiang Mai, and I want to retain some credibility with my Asian friends. But believe me, people in Bangkok know full well how to describe a pungent toot.
Anyway, back to Scrabble. I’m serious; Mom was adamant that she wanted her 21 points and that F-RT was suddenly an innocent cache of points. I hissed at her: “Mom, what if your friends here at The Villa see this? You’re still a pastor’s wife; you’ve got to set an example!” (I can’t believe I said that.)
Sure enough. At that exact moment three of her girlfriends rolled over with their walkers-on-wheels and stared at our playing board. It took them a second to absorb the naughty euphemism and then all three of them tittered. “Jean, did your son play that?”
“I did not play it!” I yelped. “That’s her word! See, that’s mine over there.” I pointed to the word “sanctify,” which had me using up all seven of my tiles. (Okay, I made that part up.)
One of Mom’s senior citizen friends cackled out loud with a sudden stab of memory. “Who’s that man who always takes the extra enchiladas? He has a bit of a problem there.” They all guffawed, and I suddenly realized times have changed.
It makes me think of the senior citizen who admitted to the doctor, “I’ve got a serious problem with silent gas, doc. Every few minutes a tiny cloud slips out. Like just now. Can you give me some pills?”
The M.D. nods, grateful for his surgical mask. “I think so. But first we’ve really got to get you a hearing test.”