Rude Awakenings ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a writer and storyteller who is out to capture your skittery mind. She's penned three books, compiled numerous collections of family genealogy, and has been a regular columnist in the SUN since 2016. She can be reached at [email protected].


A higher power

Posted on May 1, 2023 by Catherine Sevenau

Chapter 53: 1949 • Sonora ~ Our parents never argued about how to raise their children. They argued about Mother’s smoking and drinking and about her housekeeping, but not about raising the kids. Mom gave the older ones a swift kick or a snapping backhand when they didn’t move fast enough or do as they were told. When she was too lazy to get up, she’d warn, “You just wait ’til your father gets home!” She often threatened to pack the girls off to a convent, though that hadn’t made a whit of difference in her attitude when her own mother Nellie packed her and her sisters off to one as young girls.

To get Mom to calm down and have some peace and quiet for the night, Dad, slipping his brown leather belt from his pants loops, meted out an occasional token thrashing on Larry and Carleen’s bottoms, ignoring their seldom innocent protests with, “Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, this is for something you probably got away with, or for something you’re planning to do.” Other than that, our father was a soft-spoken man of few words.

As the kids got older, Dad got smarter. Whenever someone misbehaved, he’d get out his black leather-bound Bible and line up the kids by age. Starting with Larry, he’d have them raise their left hands, place their right on the good book, and make them swear to God that they’d tell the truth.

“Did you steal the change from cookie jar?” Dad queried them, one at a time.

 “No,” was the stock answer down the row.

 “Do you know who did?” The questioning started again at the head of the line.

Larry was seldom guilty. Carleen and Betty could lie through their teeth to Dad, God, and the Holy Ghost; it didn’t bother them a bit. Claudia lived in perpetual puzzlement that her dark-haired sisters could lie and not live in the same fear of God she did. Petrified, she believed God and Dad were the same: big, powerful, and all knowing. She never committed any wrongdoing, but more often than not, she knew who did, and Dad knew she’d tell. Carleen was typically the culprit. Betty usually got blamed. Claudia lived in a hell of her own making. First of all, she didn’t want to be singled out or noticed. Second, she didn’t want anyone to think badly of her so she did her best to be good; and third, her sisters constantly retaliated against her for being a little tattletale and goody-two-shoes. Her skinny right arm often hung sore and useless, black and blue from being punched. They didn’t understand their golden-haired sister had no choice. She was answering to a higher power.


Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living in Sonoma. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir; available as a web series at A longtime Broker/Realtor at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, she can be reached at [email protected]


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