I never considered Pop Hanrion a tease or particularly funny. He was serious and a hard worker who would join in when the fooling around started. He was not much of an instigator. So how did five boys turn out to be class clowns and cut-ups ready for a challenge? How did they find a way to turn every task into a game and like Tom Sawyer scam others to work while they sat back and watched?
The only culprit could have been Ruth, the mom of the house. How can that be? I know she was shy in school and didn’t have much confidence. She told me it took an astute teacher to recognize her talents and encourage her to attend college and become a teacher. From time to time, however, I could glimpse the gremlin inside this quiet woman and knew the smile on her face hid her true character. When I heard the story about dirty clothes, I knew I was right.
With six men to pick-up after, poor Ruth must have cleaned with a bulldozer to keep the health inspectors away. Now I know when they first moved to California they lived in a chicken coop because no one would rent to a family with four boys. Luckily, soon after that, they were able to buy a home with twenty acres, plenty of room for the boys to keep busy. I wonder if living in a chicken coop squelched any attempt to persuade the men to be tidy or neat…but I know many years later when Patrick was in high school she was still urging the family to change their messy habits.
One day in total frustration she took a handful of ten-penny nails, then pounded the array of underwear, shirts, pants, and socks to the floor. When the boys returned to discover all their clothing firmly attached to the floor and questioned her about their predicament. She responded, “Well if you can’t get your clothes hanging on a hook, or in the hamper, I’ll just have to hang them myself…right where they lay!”
She became a notorious heroine in the neighborhood and her story was told far and wide. I know she made an impact on many with her creative mothering, and recently when Patrick went to church in Arizona a woman approached him to ask, “Are you the Hanrion who had his clothes nailed to the floor?” He had to admit the story was true and he was the messy culprit.
I also had a moment of mom frustration when our oldest son Patrick was doing two-a-day football practice and another player was staying with us because the parents were out of town. The boys would come home, eat their way through the refrigerator and take a nap on the floor of Pat’s bedroom between practices. They would plop their sweaty stinky football pads and uniforms in the doorway ready to put them on again for the evening practice. Soon the end of the hall had a foul sour smell wafting from the bedroom.
The girls and I were assaulted with the odor and I attempted to spray away enough of the fumes to keep down the gags as we watched TV in the upstairs family room. Finally the girls and I came up with a plan. The third day when the boys were at morning practice we dumped the laundry from the entire family on top of the growing pile. Dad’s work clothes, muddy socks, girly underwear and bras joined the football pads and uniforms.
A few minutes after the boys had gone upstairs to have their nap, a yelp escaped from the room. “What is this?” They asked, emerging with girl undergarments and several of dad’s size 13 stinky socks.
“Oh that, the hampers were full and since your room had so much junk and smelly stuff, I didn’t think a few more items would make a difference. Maybe I’ll get around to washing next week.”
“Okay, we get the message; we’ll leave our stuff in the garage from now on…next to the washing machine.”
“Better would be in the washing machine with some soap!” I said, trying to push my luck.
From then on they washed their football stuff between practices, but strangely the smell lingered in that room for several months, in fact it has been many years but on humid nights I could swear there is that same sour smell emerging from the bedroom like a phantom.
Scott, Leon, & Don, three of the four brothers who taught my husband, (the fifth son) the way they kept their clothes organized...on the floor!