by Grace Brackenridge
Everybody has a Fourth of July that sticks out in memory. The one I remember most poignantly was the one when I was 14, back in 1972.
A big Catholic family, the Fourth of July celebration included my mother's family, including her six siblings and my seemingly countless cousins, plus Grandmama. With sandwiches and beer for the adults and sodas and pizza for us kids, we monopolized one of the fire rings on the beach.
My cousin Jeff, who was 16 at the time, had brought along a friend named Rusty. At 15, Rusty's shaggy hair appealed to me, as did his tight-fitting swimsuit!
I was 'boy crazy' at the time and developed an instant liking for Rusty, even though he paid no attention to me. Cousin Jeff and Rusty went off to the restroom, about half a mile down the beach.
I don't know how my stepdad and I got into it. Ralph regarded me as a 'smart-ass', a relatively undisciplined teenager, given his rather traditional views of childrearing.
I suppose I talked back to Mom and when he intervened, words were said. Ralph had been my stepdad for only a year or so at the time; I hadn't learned yet to keep my big mouth shut.
I don't remember the details at all. I'm just guessing how the argument got started. What I do remember is this...
"I won't have you spanking her, Ralph," I recall Mom telling Ralph at some point. "You've been drinking beer and, besides, she's too mature."
What Mom meant was that I was too mature to be spanked by my stepdad after a couple of beers. As it turned out, Mom was pretty flexible on that point.
But by no means was I too mature for a spanking!
I remember feeling so humiliated as Mom and two of my aunts discussed who should take me to the public restroom down the beach for a spanking. The walk to the restroom was a long hike, so the mothers debated which of them would benefit most - using the restroom to urinate as well as to spank me - killing two birds with one stone.
Both aunts at family gatherings in the past had spanked me, but not since I was 11 or 12. The prospect of being spanked by my aunts was mortifying at the grown-up age of 14.
"I have to pee," said one of my cousins, Sarah. "I'll take her."
At 21, she would graduate from college the following school year. Nevertheless, I vividly recalled the time that Sarah, her younger sister Kate, and I wandered off at a family reunion when I was six. Everybody came searching for us, but Sarah's father found us.
Uncle James gave us each a sound spanking on the spot - starting with me, the youngest. Yes, Sarah and I had been spanked together, but we were both spankees. With Sarah as spanker this time - well, things would be different.
Mom handed Sarah her hairbrush from the big straw carrying bag, telling my cousin, "Make sure she feels it, Sarah."
I remember Sarah and I making that long trek to the restroom, holding hands. Brush in hand, Sarah asked about school and grades and boyfriends, avoiding the topic of spankings altogether.
When we were about 100 feet from the restrooms, we met Cousin Jeff and Rusty, walking back.
"I'm afraid I have to spank Gracie," Sarah announced to the boys, shaming me big time. "She was rude to Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Ralph, so it's come down to this..."
Sarah showed Jeff and Rusty the brush.
As we walked on by, my face beet red, I heard Jeff say, "I think I dropped my keys back in the restroom."
I could hear their footsteps in the sand behind us. I knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted to hang around outside the restroom and listen to me get it.
The restroom had no door, just a freestanding protective wall of concrete blocks at the doorway that blocked anyone on the outside looking inside. The floor was concrete, covered with beach sand. A six-inch high slit at the bottom of the wall let the sand wash out. Each of the toilets had its own stall, but the doors had been removed.
In other words, this was a very public restroom.
A mother was helping her two young daughters use the toilets and wash their hands.
"You can go ahead," the mother said to Sarah after her daughters wiped themselves and stood washing their hands at the basins.
"Oh, we'll wait," Sarah replied, somehow feeling that everybody deserved a detailed explanation. "I have to spank my cousin. With this..."
She showed the mother her hairbrush.
What followed was another humiliating public discussion of my rudeness and why Sarah - my cousin - had been picked to administer the punishment.
"I bet that hurts," said the older of the daughters as her mother escorted them outside.
"Let's hope so," replied her mother, willing to think the worst of me, even though she didn't even known my side of the story.
For my part, I was too embarrassed to tell it anyway.
"I don't want you to get mad at me or take it personally," said Sarah, sitting on the toilet in the wider handicapped stall. "I started baby-sitting when I was about your age. I learned that a hard spanking does the most good. So if you were thinking I would go easy on you, I'm sorry to disappoint. But once it's over, I think you'll agree."
She told me to hold my hair behind my neck.
"You don't want it slapping around in the slime on this floor," she said. "You might as well take off the bottom of your swimsuit."
When I protested that somebody might walk in, she shrugged. "That's something you should have thought about before you were rude to your mother. Spankings are supposed to be embarrassing."
I told her I hardly ever got spanked bare anymore. That was technically true if we were just talking about my stepdad. Mom was pretty prudish about stepfathers spanking stepdaughters on the bare butt.
When she spanked, however, Mom had no such inhibitions.
"Well, your mother didn't say anything about it, Grace. I seem to remember a spanking a long time ago when we all got spanked bare."
She nodded knowingly and I realized she still remembered that spanking from her dad, too.
I did take off my bottoms and I did go over her lap.
But I let my hair fall after about three strokes, because Sarah was killing me!
As she set my butt ablaze, I kept recalling her ominous words: "a hard spanking does the most good."
Even with my eyes swollen with tears, and snot flying every which way, I glanced sideways under the stall and through the slit at the base of the restroom wall. I could see two pairs of flip-flops and feet, toes pointed toward my face.
I knew those feet belonged to Cousin Jeff and his friend, Rusty.
The stench from the floor - a combination of disinfectant, saltwater, seaweed, and urine - made my nostrils flare. I realized that, in my protest, my long hair mopped the filth as I tossed my head from side to side.
Sarah kept spanking away, like I was being punished for genocide in Rwanda or setting kittens afire.
Why does a teenager's honest dialog with her mother have to be punished so severely?
"Make sure she feels it, Sarah."
The words echoed in my brain and I wailed at the top of my lungs, ashamed that other people could hear me but unable to control my emotions. My crying seemed to echo off the concrete blocks.
Some of my hair slapped into my wide-open mouth, making me spit and leaving an awful taste of I-don't-know-what behind.
I can't really say how long Sarah spanked me. I'm guessing maybe 10,000 years, plus or minus.
Sarah sat on the toilet, her arms crossed, holding Mom's hairbrush, while I did something I hadn't done in years: the spank dance.
I stomped up and down in a puddle on the floor before the toilet, howling and massaging, my bare feet making splatting sounds. I realized I'd kicked my flip-flops somewhere.
In that manner, I made a fool of myself for several minutes, until I turned around to see I had an audience. There in the doorway stood a heavy-set Latina, perhaps in her 60s, holding the hand of a girl, perhaps 11 or 12 years old.
"La chica era traviesa," Sarah explained.
"What she do?" asked the girl as I sniffled and rubbed.
"Balk-talk," said Sarah succinctly.
"She had it coming," nodded the 12-year-old, like a Supreme Court justice denying a stay of execution.
I painfully put on my bottoms, cursing my tenaciousness in talking my mother into buying me a super-tight swimsuit. At 14, I wanted to show off my limited assets to the boys. At 14, my butt was the best part of my body.
I don't know how sexy my buns looked with hairbrush splotches above and below the tightly stretched fabric.
I found one of my flip-flops behind the toilet, but Sarah and I had to look all over for the other. Finally, Sarah found it and fished it out of the toilet at the far end of the row. I must have been kicking really hard!
Outside, Sarah suggested I use the shower next to the restroom to wash all the scum out of my hair. The shower only had cold water and we didn't have any shampoo, but the water felt good on my buns. I kept my head under the spray until most of the crud was washed away.
Well, then, who should walk around the corner of the restroom but Cousin Jeff and Rusty!
They didn't talk about the spanking at all, but I knew darn well they had been lurking behind the restroom, listening to me get my butt spanked royal.
I could tell by their flip-flops.
On the way back, I walked slowly, because my butt really hurt and long strides pulled the fabric tight across my seat.
"Hey, Sarah," I called, "you forgot to use the restroom."
"Oh, that's okay," she called back over her shoulder. "I guess I didn't have to go after all."
Strange, I thought.
Rusty hung back with me as Sarah and Jeff walked further and further ahead.
"When I was 12," Rusty said out of the blue, "I got spanked by my babysitter. She was 16. I never told my folks."
We walked in silence for a while. When we spoke again, he asked me about school and what I wanted to do when I grew up and whether I had a boyfriend.
I told him I liked biology, that I wanted to be a veterinarian someday, and that I didn't have a 'serious' boyfriend, just some guys I went out with sometimes.
The last part was a complete lie. I was too nerdy for boys, even if I wasn't particularly unattractive. I asked him about girlfriends and he said he was "going steady."
I lost immediate interest in Rusty.
Back at the fire circle, Mom multiplied my humiliation by tugging my swimsuit up by grasping the hem above my left leg. The fabric stretched enough to show most of my left cheek. My aunts hovered about, as if the color of my bottom was some vital issue for family observation and discussion. Fortunately, only my aunts were in the circle around me.
When I started to whine about my privacy, Mom slapped the part of my butt sticking out, making my eyes water. As Mom covered my cheek, I turned and noticed Rusty looking on from the other side of the fire ring.
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