It was the 50s, and I was five – an only child living in an apartment with my parents. One summer’s day, my mother decided that she would go back to work part-time and it was obvious that she needed to find a babysitter for me.
The solution was right next door. My mother’s neighbour had two daughters, five and nine, and had been working for some time. She had a babysitter who agreed to watch me during the mornings my mother planned to work.
I was a rather coddled child, sensitive, emotional, quite used to having things my own way. I did play with the other children in the neighbourhood but even at my young age, I had earned a well-deserved reputation as a hothead. My mother and father were rather reticent with their discipline, believing that I was simply ‘going through a phase’ and I would eventually calm down.
And so I was introduced to the babysitter on bright morning. Her name was Mary. She was 19, a little on the stout side but blonde, blue-eyed and quite pretty. She didn’t smile very much and had a little downturn at the corners of her mouth most of the time.
I spent most of the first day with Mary and the two neighbour’s daughters Sylvia (the older one) and Margaret, playing quietly with some toys I had brought with me or reading. Mary spent most of the time knitting. She wore a very conservative dress, heels and stockings, and I learned that this was her unvarying uniform for each day of work.
I knew Sylvia and Margaret as acquaintances, sometimes playing a little bit with Margaret since she was my age, but mostly I avoided them since they were girls and I enjoyed playing ‘army’ and cowboys and Indians with the other boys in the neighbourhood.
But now I had to spend four long hours each morning with these girls and this dour babysitter who, it was clear on the third day, did not believe her duties included following us through the neighbourhood, nor inviting other children to the house to play with us, since her employer wanted the house neat upon her return.
And so as the long minutes of the fourth day dragged on, I became progressively more and more bored with the card and board games I played with the girls, and didn’t feel like reading.
I forget exactly how the argument happened that day. I think I wanted to look at one of Margaret’s toys when she was playing with and when she wouldn’t give it to me, I snatched it from her. When she tried to grab it back, I gave her a rude shove, making her stumble backward, landing on her bottom. She immediately began to cry in surprise and humiliation.
Mary had put down her knitting in an instant, and loomed over us, surveying the scene, hands on hips.
“What is going on here?” She asked sternly. Margaret stammered out an explanation. “Is that true, Jackie? Did you take her toy and push her down?”
I felt I didn’t owe this woman, this temporary caretaker, any further explanation. And flushed with my own sense of triumph, I didn’t feel sorry for Margaret at all. She should have given me the toy when I asked for it!
“Yes, I pushed her down. So what? I’ll give her toy back in minute or two, OK?” Margaret began to bawl.
I will never, ever forget what happened next to me.
Mary grabbed me by the arm. Her grip was hard, and she yanked me toward the couch in the living room so hard I was off my feet for a moment. I dropped the toy to the floor.
Mary pulled me down over her lap on the couch and pulled my shorts and my underpants down.
I couldn’t believe it! I was so shocked and embarrassed. I remember looking at Margaret and Sylvia for help but they stared in amazement at me and then, as they saw my bare bottom, they began to smile in the way only children can who are witnesses to watching one of their peers about the receive a humbling, humiliating spanking.
I remember each second, each word as if it were yesterday: the feel of the air on my naked bottom, my struggles to pull myself off her lap (which were futile under her strong grip on my arm) and the way she pinned my legs down with her stout leg. I remember the feel of her nylons on my bare legs as my shorts and underpants worked themselves all the way down to my ankles as I struggled.
And then the spanking itself: hard, stinging, making me yell with the fifth blow, and then bawl at the ninth or tenth, as I kicked my legs and struggled to get away.
Finally, the spanking was over and I was told to stand in the corner for 30 minutes, with my pants down, to consider how I should treat ladies.
I tried to get away almost immediately and Mary was on me like an avenging angel, grabbing my arm and giving me a few further hard spanks until I buried my head in the corner, sobbing. I could hear Margaret and Sylvia giggling, making remarks about the bright red marks on my bottom. I was never so humiliated in my young life.
The worst part of the day, after that spanking, was sobbing in my mother’s arms, telling her about the mean babysitter. Imagine how shocked I was when my own mother told me it appeared to be exactly what I deserved!
You would think I would have learned my lesson from this one event. I didn’t. My temper was still so great that about once a week, I would get so angry with something one of the girls would do that I would bring another spanking on myself.
Even now. I can hear Margaret’s and Sylvia’s taunting chant as I grew angrier and angrier, and stern Mary began to put down her knitting and head toward me. “Jackie’s getting a spanking, Jackie’s getting a spanking…”