Weekly Writing Challenge: Just call me ears

Weekly Writing Challenge:  Eavesdropping

This prompt immediately brought me back to a story from my childhood.

It was the summer before 3rd grade and definitely some of the leaner years for my family, fiscally speaking.  My dad had been a fishing guide, a commercial fisherman and a stone crabber and was still doing the latter two.  Some of the locals from our Southwest FL community would often go to Louisiana and fish whenever things weren’t going as well here.  I’m not sure if it was the lack of product, the prices or just the need for a change that compelled my dad to try his luck in Louisiana, but I wasn’t very happy about it.

News travels fast in a small town and it wasn’t long until people were talking about our impending move and lamenting on what in the world my grandparents would do without those grand babies.  I overheard people wondering if my dad was doing the right thing and guessing as to why he might be going.  I didn’t repeat any of that, at least that I recall.  It is possible that I did though, because if I got in trouble it was usually because I said something I shouldn’t have said or repeated something that was not meant to leave the family dinner table.

My relatives would tell you I was infamous for pretending to read a book and listening to all sorts of juicy tidbits.  I remember sometimes one of them would clear their throat and motion my direction and mouth the word “ears”.  It really isn’t my fault that they chose to speak in front of me anyway.  If the information was classified, they should have known not to say it within earshot of me.  I feel like I need to clarify that my family was not the type that sat around gossiping about people, because they were far from it.  My dad was very strict about how we treated others and taught us to treat everyone with respect.  The things discussed were normally family business that just didn’t need to be shared.

We were sitting in our car, my mom and I and possibly my brother and sister, although it was much more likely that they had jumped out with my dad to check on his boat.  One of my great-aunts was walking up to my mom’s window to chat.  She had on her polyester pants and sunglasses; she always seemed to sport both.  She was smiling and talking to my mother and I and she looked at me and said, “Honey, now why is your daddy going to carry you off to Louisiana?”  I replied, “Because he said he is tired of nosy, busy body relatives knowing all of his business”.

The conversation ended shortly thereafter, for reasons I only understood in retrospect.  It took the talk and the spanking to drive it home.  The talk hurt worse than the spanking because I came to realize that I had hurt someone’s feelings and possibly marred my dad’s reputation as the nice young man that he was, who had great respect for his elders.

I am sure my eavesdropping got me into trouble other times as well, but eventually I learned.  I was taught that it was rude and nosy and shouldn’t be done. However, I believe there are times when it is appropriate.   For example, as a parent, I did profit a few times by eavesdropping whereby gaining information I would never have been privy to otherwise; information that aided in better parenting.   I don’t know any parents who haven’t  employed it with teenagers.

In our times of crowded subways, office cubicles and people who seem to want the world to hear their cell phone conversations, it is very difficult not to “listen in ” at times.  I think the rules of etiquette have changed on this one , but I still try to show good manners by moving away from something that I overhear, when it’s clear the conversation is private.

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