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Both Mother’s Day and Memorial Day fall in the month of May, so our thoughts naturally turn toward home and loved ones and spending time with the family. Now, I don’t know about you, but my own family gatherings involve a fair amount of teasing and tattling, along with a few side trips down memory lane, invariably prefaced by the words, “Remember when ... ”
Like most families, mine would embark on summer vacations to exotic locales like Disneyworld or “somewhere up in the mountains.” Separated in age by only a couple of years, my brother and I dutifully did our part to carry on the time-honored tradition of siblings across the country and the world, as we tried our level best to pummel one another to pieces in the car on the way to wherever we were going.
Scott would punch me in the shoulder, and I’d bite him; he would kick me in the shin, and I’d return the favor by relieving him of a handful of his hair. (Yes, I admit it. I fight like a girl, due to the fact I am one.)
Before we had logged many miles or sustained any serious injuries, my mom would turn around in the front seat and give us The Glare. You know the one; it burns through your skull like Superman’s X-ray vision cuts through metal safes, bank vault doors and flank steak.
Then she would utter one of those customized mom phrases, immediately recognizable by the fact that each word is followed by a period: Roger. Scott. Best. Catherine. Elaine. Best. Do. Not. Make. Me. Come. Back. There.
When dealing with mothers, the absence of a contraction is ominous, especially when accompanied by the use of your full given name.
NASCAR has a comprehensive rule book. It governs participation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series by spelling out the sport’s can/can’t clauses in black and white (and yes, it is read all over). As new situations arise in racing, the rule book evolves accordingly.
I have long suspected new moms are armed with a rule book of their own. When they leave the hospital, they’re packing something more than an infant wrapped in pink or blue. It is a built-in handbook containing key phrases legally allowed to be used only by mothers, and it grows and evolves into fluency right along with the child.
This begins during the toddler stage: “Don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where it’s been!"
It really starts to gain some steam in the pre-pubescent years: “What did you just say? Where did you hear that word? Let me hear that again, and I’ll be washing your mouth out with soap.”
Full speed is achieved with teenagers: “Am I talking to a brick wall? What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”
NASCAR is often described as a family, and when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch were racing for the win in Richmond in early May, the incident did indeed start to resemble a couple of squabbling siblings. He’s on my side of the track! It wasn’t my fault! He started it!
(Quick recap: Earnhardt and Busch were racing side-by-side for the lead during the final laps of the race when their cars “got together.” Earnhardt, the leader at the time, spun out as a result of the incident. It cost him what looked like a certain victory. His fans didn’t take it well, to put it mildly.)
The NASCAR rule book didn’t come into play in this particular case as the incident was chalked up to what Dale Earnhardt Sr. would have called “just one of those racin’ deals.”
The mom rule book, on the other hand, is always in action where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is concerned, with pages flying so fast and furiously the entire volume is subject to spontaneously combust at any given moment.
It begins with the usual pre-race admonitions: “Remember, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. And be sure to wear clean underwear in case you get caught up in an accident.”
NASCAR is a sport where retaliation violates the rule book, but sometimes it happens anyway. Moms have their own way of dealing with this type of behavior: “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you go with them? What is wrong with you? Were you born in a barn?”
Dust-ups on the track can result in some contentious behavior, prompting Mom to offer this sage advice: “Stop picking at that. It’ll get infected. Don’t make me tell you again.”
In the heat of the moment, particularly during post-event interviews, the mouth displays a certain tendency to race ahead of the brain.
The fine art of speechmaking has been perfected by mothers over the course of many centuries, so they’re more than happy to clue drivers in on the proper way to behave when a microphone is shoved into their face: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Not another word out of you, young man!”
During races, if drivers behaved as if their moms were riding shotgun, I would venture to guess that NASCAR and the FCC would be very happy, and altercations would be virtually eliminated.
In fact, I’m going to strongly suggest to NASCAR’s superstars that they give this method a shot during the long, hot summer months to come.
Why? Because I said so, that’s why.
Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations at Darlington Raceway. She currently lives in Florence, S.C. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.