When I was seven and Jeff was six, mother had bought us new coats for Easter and we were invited to tea on Easter afternoon at the Potters.
Our coats matched, even though his had buttons that worked differently and no belt at the back of the waist. Each of us had black velvet collars, and both coats were of soft, red fabric. I felt like a queen as I swirled in mine. Jeff mostly tolerated being buttoned up. He had a matching red cap with tiny visor, and I had a round, red hat with streamers down the back.
We returned from church with nanny and grandmother, and the grown-ups went inside to do whatever they needed to do. I asked nanny if we could stay outside in the beautiful sunshine, unusually warm for this early a spring day. She was reluctant, for we had the party at the Potters, yet told me that we could stay in the driveway.
I knew that we should not go on the wet grass, but somehow I thought that all cement was OK, so I asked Jeff if he wanted to see the Smiths’ dogs in their pen next door. He thought that was fine and the gate of our yard was right against the Smiths’ fence, so I didn’t think there would be a problem.
We skipped next door and peered through the fencing at the dogs. I don’t know what kind they were, but their pointed faces could reach through the spaces in the fence and lick our hands. Nanny hated that – she always warned us about ‘dog germs’. We didn’t see anything on our hands, so we continued to play with them.
I began climbing on the fence a bit to talk to the dogs, not intending to upset them or cause any trouble. Somehow, and I still do not know how, their gate opened and all three dogs bounced out to play. They knocked Jeff down and started licking him all over his face.
He was laughing as he lay in the grass next to the driveway. I rushed over to play too, but my sense of responsibility told me that we should lure them back into their pen. We couldn’t do it. I rang the Smiths’ bell, but no-one was home. They must have all been at their church, even the servants.
Meantime, the dogs had gotten hold of Jeff’s jacket by the buttons and were pulling him around. He was laughing. He hadn’t noticed that one had shaken his cap to shreds. I saw it, and I knew we were in trouble. I took the collar of one dog and tried to put him back in the pen. He took my hat by the ribbons and ran away with it, dancing all around me.
I started to cry. Jeff stumbled to his feet and saw that things were serious now. He tried to help me get the dogs back in the pen but they just went after my buttons now. Soon both of us were on the ground again and the dogs were barking and playfully growling.
With no alternative I started to call for help. Nanny and Suzanne were out looking for us and heard our cries. Around the corner they came at full speed, and Suzanne ran back for more help. Father and mother came, as well as Suzanne, and father and Suzanne got the dogs back in their pen and all latched in properly.
There was dead silence as all eyes turned to us. My mother’s eyes filled with rage and I saw clouds over everyone’s face. Jeff and I knew we were in for it, Easter or no Easter.
We were marched home in disgrace. Nanny took us both upstairs and undressed us down to our underwear – the only part of our clothing which was unsoiled. My father came in and told us that our mother was going to deal with us very harshly, for we had ruined the clothes she had bought for us and very likely cancelled our attendance at the Potters’ party. Then he turned and left.
Nanny brought two chairs and put them near each other. She told us to take down our underwear, which was very scary. Then she led us to the chairs and sat us in each, telling us not to move. I can still feel the fabric of that upholstery on my bare bottom.
We waited a long time, not daring to say anything to each other. Nanny just sat in the armchair and stared out the window.
Then came the dreaded entrance of mother. She stood us up and pushed the chairs apart a bit. She placed me over one of them, then placed Jeff over the other, so that we were bottom to bottom. Mother just stood there. After a few minutes I started to cry softly. I just couldn’t help it. Mother reached over and gave my bottom a severe slap. “Not a sound out of you!”
Then the lecture began. It never seemed to end. I could feel myself squeezing and unsqueezing my buttocks in dreadful anticipation of what I knew was going to happen. “Nanny, I need the spanking stick,” Mother finally said. That old thin board was terrible. Now I really started to cry and begged mother not to spank me.
But without another word, she started. Spank and spank and spank it went – a stick on its mission. How awful it was! Mother was obviously really upset about the coats and hats, and I don’t blame her today. When she was finished, she picked up Jeff and held him. He was arching his back and rubbing his sore bottom.
She told him that he had been a very naughty boy and he now had to go with nanny to be dressed and put on to his bed as punishment. I started to get up, but mother jerked me to my feet and sat down in my chair, looking me right in the eye. I was still sobbing and rubbing my bottom.
The lecture returned. “You were told that those were special clothes! I know it was your idea to leave the yard – Jeff follows everything you do! You are the one responsible for this!” With that, she pulled me sharply over her knees and began to spank me with her open hand, again and again.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me all over again. She spanked all the way from the back of my knees to the top of my buttocks – wow, did that ever hurt! There was nothing I could say or do that would make her stop. I reached back, but she held my arm up so I couldn’t protect myself.
I never thought it would end. Of course, it did. Spankings always did, but this was a really severe one, according to our family traditions. When it was over, mother took me on to her lap and began to rock me. “You got in over your head, didn’t you? You couldn’t get those dogs back in, right? You must have been afraid when you saw so much damage happening…”
I squirmed on her lap, wanting to run and hide in shame, but she held me firmly. She bent me over again, and I thought I was going to be spanked again. But instead, she put hand cream all over my bottom, and smoothed the burning skin. I remember putting my thumb in my mouth and sobbing in little gasps.
“You must become more obedient, little one,” she said. “I do not want to spank you like this. Now, nanny will dress you and you must go to your bed too, just like Jeff.
“We will be going to the Potters without you this afternoon. I am very, very sorry that this terrible thing has happened. You be good for nanny and we will see you this evening.”
With that she was gone, and nanny came in to dress me. I was still crying and calling out for mother to come back, for I was so sorry. Nanny just shook her head and began dressing me. When I protested a bit, she pulled down my underwear and gave me one little slap on the side of my thigh. I sharpened right up and co-operated.
Those coats were beautiful, but I never wanted another one with a velvet collar.