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Extracts from a Disciplined Childhood
by Edith Cadivec
The Meaning of My Life
Mother turned the book around this way and that and examined it from all sides. It did not take her long to grasp the dimensions of the disaster.
"Casanova! Casanova!" she shrieked wrathfully to the rest of the family members present. Her horror before this state of affairs choked her breathing, her pale face had flushed crimson. Finally she regained her self-control and turning toward me, she asked:
"What kind of book is that, you depraved child, and where did you find it? Was this the so-called homework that worried you so much? Answer me, Now!"
So saying, she gingerly took the infamous book between her fingers and held it under my nose. Defiantly, I turned my back on her. The others just stood there as if rooted to the floor, gaping at the scene. If I had been alone with my mother, I would have found impudent excuses and answered her boldly and brazenly. But the shaming reprimand in the presence of my father and my smirking siblings, this public disgrace, totally disarmed me. Tears welled up in my eyes and I remained in my corner, burning with shame and in a state of utter confusion.
"Talk up! Answer! Where did you find it? I'll give you the birching you deserve in front of everybody here."
The threat of the rod on my naked backside was not the worse threat that loomed before me. Face to face with my mother alone I had humbly submitted to the most violent floggings. But now, as an older girl of twelve, I defended myself against a flogging in the presence of my father and my sisters. Mother perceived the reason for my refusal to submit and observed me with an icy stare. Then her eyes glinted with fury and, in a sudden movement, she tore out a handful of pages from the disreputable book. She turned to my father and declared in a tone of great resolve, not without a touch of hypocrisy:
"This has to stop, once and for all. If you don't take energetic steps now, we'll have worse trouble later with our little hoydens. And this one here is m - and right here and now. But I shouldn't be the one to do it."
"Why not? After all, you are the father, aren't you?"
"Indeed, but I can't punish her because I'm not angry enough with her. You can punish her in my presence, that will shame her all the more and take some of the arrogance out of her. Whip her behind to shreds!"
The maid appeared on the threshold to announce that dinner was ready at the very moment my father pronounced the last word. The whole family left for the dining room on the floor below; only I remained in my corner, in defiance of them all. Mother was the last to leave; at the threshold she turned around to me once more and after taking cognisance of my stupid stubbornness, in a very severe and peremptory tone, she declared:
"As punishment you will not eat with us today. You will remain in your room until I come back. Is that clear? Don't drive me to extremes or I'll let you have here and now what you certainly can expect later."
Shame welled up in me. I felt my face glowing like a red-hot coal. I could only stammer contritely: "Oh, Mother, please forgive me just this once?"
She came up to me, and tried to bend me under her left arm. But she quickly realized that my resistance blocked her from carrying out her obvious intention. When I broke free of her grip, she released me and slapped me resoundingly several times on both cheeks with all her might, temporarily deafening and blinding me. I reeled back under the blows, half dazed, sobbing, and inwardly seething. My mother took advantage of this moment to leave the room. Hastily. I hurled myself at the door in an attempt to hold her back, but she was already outside and had locked me in the room, turning the key in the lock twice. Full of anger and shame, my senses in a tumult, I threw myself on the bed. Through my brain raced the wildest thoughts of revenge against Dora who had forced the book on me. I imagined myself flogging her naked backside to shreds and this image suffused my whole being with pleasurable sensations.
Little by little, however, a deep depression came over me. I rose from my bed and went out to the balcony, where I sank into a wicker chair. The fresh air cooled my brain and cheeks. I could hear the loud conversation from the dining room, which lay directly under my room. I leaned over the side of the balcony and saw that the window was open. I heard my mother's voice saying:
"It's absolutely impossible to get on peacefully with Senta. Who owns the book, who lent it to her?"
My father's voice followed hers through the open window. Instead of trying to answer her rhetorical question, he struck a warning note: "You mustn't hesitate for an instant to use the rod unsparingly, and sooner or later the children themselves will be thankful to you for it. Mere words, tossed out like bubbles in the air, have no effect on them . . . A good arse-warming helps them remember warnings better than anything else."
This exchange was followed by complete silence; the noonday stillness was broken only by the clink of the cutlery and the clatter of dishes. My anger reached a pitch of absolute fury. I was hungry, sleepy, and utterly exhausted.
I was suddenly awakened from my drowsiness by the rattle of the key in the door. Blinking, I recognized my mother's silhouette. She was standing in front of me, holding a long birch rod. The whole family followed behind her, like a pack of sensation-seekers, my father and my five sisters. Their faces mirrored that singular prudence which I myself felt at the prospect of witnessing a flogging.
My mother came up to me without uttering a word and grabbed me firmly by the wrist. With a jerk, she tore me away from the chair and boldly swung me to the centre of the room, whereupon she said in an icy command:
"Unbutton your bloomers and lay face down and straight across the bed. Out with your naked bottom. I'll give it the whipping it deserves because of your shameful deed!"
Her wicked words plunged me into an abyss of shame. I also realized that any resistance would be useless, since I deserved the thrashing and therefore had to submit to my mother's commands. Trembling, I stuck my hands under my clothes, fingering them confusedly as I tried to find the buttons of my bloomers. My mother waited in front of me impatiently, the birch rod poised in readiness to strike, accompanying the mute scene with utterances that deepened and intensified my shame.
My hands, hidden under the dress, finally found the buttons of my bloomers. I undid them, and my underclothes rolled down to my ankles. Then I bent over the edge of the bed and lifted my dress high above my arched bottom, exposing it fully to the view of all those present. Mother came to my side and after raising all encumbering pieces of clothing still higher, she began to swing the rod viciously.
Swish! Huit! Swish! Huit! Huit! Sighed the thin birch branches as they landed on my exposed buttocks. Each blow seared my flesh like a hot iron and the wild sensation of pain first elicited plaintive whimperings from me. Although I squirmed and twisted like a snake and kicked wildly in all directions, I could not ward off this hail of hissing blows as they fell mercilessly on my tender backside. I burst into a terrifying scream and rolled up into a ball in a desperate effort to defend myself.
My father spontaneously rushed to her help; he grabbed me around the waist and his powerful arms easily bent me into a position that inflected my body in the correct angle. Then, in a state of great excitement he belaboured my already burning buttocks with his strong hand.
Under his crackling blows I began to scream, to kick about again, and to defend myself with all my might. My screams were so loud that the cook came running upstairs and stuck her head through the chink of the door to find out what the uproar was all about. When she saw that Father was giving me a sound thrashing, she went back to her kitchen pleased with the sight.
I find it very unseemly for a father to inflict corporal punishment on his daughter's naked bottom, especially if she is on the edge of puberty. A girl can be punished by birching up to the time of her marriage - this I believe is sound and salutary practice - but always on condition that it is the mother or the governess who administers the beating.
My father released me only after his rage subsided. I slumped to the floor and rolled on the carpet. I rubbed my sore buttocks, without thinking of the indecent spectacle I was offering the onlookers in view of my wild despair and confusion. It was the most terrible birching I had ever received. Never in my life had I ever received a similar sound thrashing, in double portion to boot.
"Get up now and pull up your bloomers, Senta. I hope you will take good note of this," said my mother in a soothing tone of voice.
I got up dizzily and felt my backside; it was heavy and swollen, like a red-hot ball. I pulled up my bloomers with a feeble motion and arranged my clothes properly. Father came up to me, and in a pacifying tone of voice he admonished me emphatically:
"This should teach you a lesson, child. You have been very severely punished, but eventually you will see that your parents have acted correctly. And now, try to mend your ways."
Overcome by tender family feelings, I took a few steps toward my mother, threw my arms around her neck, and hid my face in her bosom. I sobbed heartrendingly. She loosened herself from my embrace, kissed me fleetingly on the forehead, and left the room with the others.
Once I was alone I fell prey to an extraordinary sensual excitement. A tickling stimulus in my private parts threw me into a turmoil. I pulled down my bloomers, threw myself on the bed, lifted my clothes over my head, and spread my legs. I daydreamed wonderfully about Dora's stark-naked bottom being flogged as never before. Fancy conjured up the most voluptuous images of a birching. My fingers unconsciously played with my clitoris, the area around which was moist with sexual excitation for a long time; until my consciousness was buried under an avalanche of voluptuousness.