You’re never too young to be humbled. Just ask the 18-year-old who flipped off a Miami-Dade Circuit Judge and was rewarded with 30 days in jail. BAM!
By now you know the story: Penelope Soto was originally arrested for illegal possession of Xanax. At her bond hearing she got mouthy with the judge, and he increased her bond to $10,000.
Then, according to every news outlet in the free world, Soto gave Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat the finger. That’s when he hollered, “In contempt!” and gave her 30 days in the county motel. (Now, I’m not sure he hollered. But who could blame him?)
Two days later, Soto stood chastened before the judge—one got the feeling her mother and lawyer probably tag-teamed her--and apologized. It worked. Rodriguez-Chomat dropped the contempt charge and ordered her to seek drug treatment. He also waived the $10,000 bond, which means Soto walked out of court and into the sweet sunshine of freedom. (I’m betting she then flipped off the first person she saw, but that’s just me.)
Listen, I was 18 and stupid once. I did and said outrageous things. (I briefly considered majoring in snark.) But I knew there were certain lines of authority you didn’t cross. That’s because in mi familia, judgment was swift and sure. Read on…
In our clan, kids left the nest early. My brother T-Bob was a senior in high school when he flew the coop. I started college at 17 and split. I don’t remember when Bubba and Moonbeam left, or under what circumstances. In my family, you were just sort of there one day and gone the next. It was no big deal.
Mother always encouraged our independence. If you said, “I’m thinking about mov—“ you’d better have a new place and a buddy with a truck lined up, because she’d exclaim, “Wonderful! Marvelous! Don’t be a stranger!” and shoo you out the front door. (Then she’d turn your bedroom into a sewing room before Tuesday. Woman didn’t play.)
Of course, we knew we could always go back for a meal, or to do laundry. With four young adults coming and going, it was all very fluid and relaxed. Until one sunny Saturday morning….
I was standing at the open kitchen window, watching T-Bob, now about 19 and in college, wash his cherished Peugeot in the backyard. Tiny, feisty Mother was next to him, chewing him out about something. He was not in the mood to hear it, and she was not in the mood to back off. Voices were raised.
Finally, flush with independence and testosterone, T-Bob threw his sponge in the air and invited her to shut the hell up. I almost fainted at the sink.
I thought Mother might slap him, but no.† She cocked her head and said, “Huh.” Then, with a half-smile fixed on her face, she turned and trotted towards a small pile of sand and brick pavers—remnants of a recent patio project. She bent, picked up a half-brick, turned and trotted back towards T-Bob.
She was less than 20 feet away, still smiling, when he realized what she meant to do with that brick. He let out a bloodcurdling scream, threw down the hose and ran for his life. The last time I saw him that day, he was sprinting down our long dirt driveway with Mother doggedly trotting behind.
T-Bob made it to the highway and hopped a ride in old Mr. Barber’s Rambler, which is the only reason he remains alive today.
Was Mother’s reaction harsh? Absolutely. Did T-Bob ever flip off a judge? Never. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Julie R. Smith, who saw a LOT from that kitchen window, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.