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The Four Letter Word

I once heard our family friend get his mouth washed out with soap. I remember wondering how it tasted. I quickly gathered not very good on account of all the gurgling, coughing and shouts of "but Mom!" My sisters and I never got our mouths washed out so this caused true intrigue among the three of us. That's not to say that I didn't sometimes have a potty mouth, being I was "the bad sister." I was just extra careful as to when I unleashed the hounds. I of course being the nosy Nelly that I was had to scope out the situation. I got as close to the bathroom door as I could and began to shout, "I'll save you!" through the door to Joey when my sister Kari put her hand over my mouth and ushered me away.

It had been a long day on the boat fishing with Mr. Johnson and our temperaments, and consequently mouths, were paying the price.  There was a competition at sea that day to see how many fish we could each catch. Being there was six of us kids, we separated into teams of three and boarded our neighbor's boat one team at a time. My two sisters and the youngest Nizza boy, Joey made Team 1 and the two older Nizza boys and myself made Team 2.

Maturity at its finest, Tom, Mike and I agreed to over-exaggerate the number of fish we caught. Don't look at me, I was only seven at the time and the baby of the whole group.  All you had to do was give me a chocolate and I would basically do whatever the "big kids" wanted. Joey had the misfortune of  being part of the team with two would-be angels, my sisters, so of course they confessed to their real number, not once even considering lying.

My sisters may have been angels, but they were no dummies. Kari, Christy and Joey cornered me with a bag of M&Ms. I of course, with chocolate smeared around the corners of my mouth, confessed to our untruth. This set off Joey's potty mouth and consequently the wrath of Mary-Ellen's bar of soup. I had never heard so many F-bombs and S-slips in my young life. I would say the mouth cleaning was warranted.  The ironic part that we all found after Joey's "mouth shower" was that their team had legitimately won.

I can still see my mother's face when she said, "Cheaters don't win, but more importantly," she turned her direction to my sisters, "shouldn't be rewarded with chocolate."

She wiped my face with a damp cloth for what seemed like a good 10 minutes before she said, "Did you get any of the chocolate in your mouth?"

I wasn't sure at the time, but I now know my mom was amused at the whole situation and trust me when I tell you, I didn't always amuse her. She would often say,  "I hope you have a kid just like you!" It was her go-to line when I had frustrated her to no end.

That's generally how our vacations went. There was a lot of fun, followed by one of us being in trouble. When I say one of us, I of course am referring to everyone aside from my sisters. The boys were, well boys, and erred on the rambunctious side. I was, let's say, vibrantly frisky. I wasn't a nasty kid, I was just the type of kid who liked a little mischief to go along with her day. Take for instance the time that I decided to feed a seagull cheese doodles on the beach despite my parent's persistent "Nos!"

"You betta cut that out. Stop trowin' those cheese doodles!" my father said, but before we knew it, the birds were swooping down from the heavens. I think there was five seagulls for every cheese doodle that was on the sand. Thinking I would outsmart the legion of wings, I ran over to the right of our beach umbrella and threw the rest of the bag on the ground. The birds didn't seem to notice. They instead turned there attention to something else that was bright orange..... the scrunchie that was holding my hair back! After feeling two pecks on the top of my head, I ran in a blind panic towards the ocean as more seagulls began to surround me.

"Get the hell away fo'm me!"I yelled, screamed, cried and splashed. Within seconds, my five-year-old hiney was lifted up and carried to the top of the beach by my father, potty-mouth and all. It was one of the only times I cursed in front of my parents. I wasn't punished for swearing seeing as it was relatively traumatizing having a flock of birds attack me. However, once I calmed down, they gave me a talking to about listening to my father. I'm telling you, my parents never missed a beat. To this day, I still instinctively cringe when I see people eating around seagulls and have not worn an orange hair band since.

It is those summer days down the Jersey shore, in our favorite place, with our favorite people that I keep close to my heart. It was a week every year of pool or beach days, mini-golf, board game nights and amusement park gallivanting that made each summer so perfect.  I always felt like we were our own version of the movie "The Great Outdoors", minus the lake house and 96 ounce steak. Although, the amount of food consumed that week between the ten of us could probably feed a small village.

With the sun setting on the summer season, I look down at my daughter and see myself down the shore with those special people, in that special place. I am even starting to see a faint murmur of what my mother had uttered to me all those years ago about having one just like me. Or shall I say, "hear" a faint murmur....

My daughter dropped an F-bomb a few months ago, "Mom, where's the fuc#&%! AMINAL crackers!?"

She may have also used the Lord's name in vane, "Jesus Christ, YOOK at all this traffic."

She may have even called me by my first name like I am some kind of hired help or something, "NIKKI, I want my Binky!"

Madison's first time on the beach. With her Godmother, July 2013.
She's not going to be perfect. My husband and I will have to punish her sometimes. We will wonder if the decisions we are making are in her best interest. But, at the end of the day if we can say we made our decisions out of love, then we know they are the right ones.

 I can imagine that these must have been the same thoughts my parents had while raising three girls, which is why the quiet moments together on the beach meant so much to us all. There's something about the ocean that puts life into perspective. Looking at the endless waves you are reminded that life has boundless possibilities and no matter what  you have lost in your life, the ocean emphasizes that there is so much left to be found.                                  

Madison, should you find yourself thinking of only four-letter-words to describe your current state in life, just remember the only one that will get you through.. Love. Love is what got me this job as your mother, kid. Never be afraid of it. Seagulls on the other hand around food... heed my warning. They are nasty little buggers. There isn't a four-letter-word that could chase them away when they are in the mood for cheese doodles....


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