My Most Embarrassing Moment

By Bernie Suttle


embarrassedThe fire trails up the mountainside stood out in the morning sunlight as the coastal fog began to dissipate. This kind of morning lent a coolness to the day that otherwise would be scorching hot.

Being a “big boy,” too old for a crib, I was lying in my “youth bed.” Looking out the window I could see the big, San Gabriel Mountains and I was wondering what was beyond them when my mother came into the room.

“Good Morning, Son; today is a Holy Day. We’ll be going to Mass this morning. So hurry and get dressed. I left your clothes on the chair. When you’re dressed breakfast will be ready.

I thought to myself, “I’m not in school yet and it’s nice that Mom lays out my clothes but I can do it better myself, anyway.” She had left me a polo shirt and the hated, short pants. I wondered, “How long must I suffer wearing these baby pants before I have long ones? Shoes and sox, but no underwear! Did she forget? What’s up? Mom’s slipping.”

Mom entered my room, dressed for the Big Red Street Car that would take us to church. She had something pink in her hands; what was it?

“Son, you don’t have any underwear. (Was that my fault?) So you can wear a pair of your sister’s. With that she handed them to me - a pair of girls, pink panties. I wouldn’t take them. I wouldn’t even touch them. I was scared. “Mom, I can’t wear those; I won’t wear them. I’ll stay in bed all day first.”

She stared at me and sternly said, “I can’t leave you here alone; it’ll be OK. Hurry-up and get dressed.”

And there was my big sister wearing a smirk instead of her usual frown.

I’ll bet she had something to do with my missing underwear. She always enjoyed any physical or emotional pain I suffered.

I pouted, I cried, I yelled, I ran and I hid but I finally followed my mom’s directions when she said, “Wear them or stay in your bed all day with me here to see that you do.” That did it. So, in spite of my bitter anger,  I put them on. I kept a stormy face and dour mannerism during breakfast until we went next-door for a brief visit with Mrs. Wickstrom, my friend and almost Grandmother.

The Wickstroms were retired, Illinois farmers who wintered in Southern California and served as substitute grandparents for my sister and me. I saw this visit as a scheme to mollify me. Mrs. Wickstrom opened their front door and said, “Well, Hello and good morning. Don’t you all look nice today! But, Bernard, what’s wrong? You look so unhappy?

I couldn’t tell her.

Mom explained my predicament.

I almost collapsed with embarrassment.

Mrs. Wickstrom smiled at me, a comforting smile, and said, “Bernard, let me show you something. It’s a photo of Will (her husband) taken at about your age.”

She left the room to return with a gold-framed, two-by-three inch, black and white snapshot of a very unhappy looking kid with long, curly hair attired in a dress-like costume. She said, “It was customary for boys to be dressed like this and to have long, curled hair until they went to school”.

I wondered, “Why would these women do this to boys?” Is there a plan by adult females to traumatize or at least embarrass male children by subjecting them to such persecutions?

The picture of Mr. Wickstrom as a boy didn’t help. I felt sorry for him and was still outraged at my predicament.

So, remember, don’t judge an unhappy, little boy, until you have worn his underpants.

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