The raised eyebrow

in Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

Years ago I was in Storm Brother’s Ice Cream store in downtown Annapolis, Maryland. The place was packed because it was a hot summer day, the tourists were in town and people were escaping to the ice cream and the air conditioning.

As I stood there in line, a little girl around four and her mother came in. As they stood there waiting, the little girl started to whine and cry. The mother chose to ignore the little girl’s behavior to the dismay of those of us around them. We were all hot and tired and did not want to listen to her. I finally turned around and looked at the girl and raised my left eyebrow high into my forehead. She looked at me, turned her face into her mother’s leg and was quiet. Message sent and received.

The raised eyebrow is a look I learned from my mother. It meant many things. A slight raised eyebrow meant, “Now what is going on?” the higher her eyebrow rose the more serious the offense. The highest eyebrow was the worst. “Wait until I get you home!”

There was obviously a background history to that eyebrow. I knew what it meant and I knew based on her eyebrow how far I could push her. The Highest Brow look meant that you were going to be punished. Punishment for her meant you will go to bed right after dinner (or occasionally, no dinner); it meant no television for a week; no playing with your friends after school. It was serious. There were no toys in our bedrooms, just beds, dressers and some stuffed animals and dolls. I was banished to a room where basically I had to think about what I had done wrong.

The first part of my punishment normally consisted of dreaming how I was going to run away and how much I disliked my parents and all those kinds of childish thoughts. Ultimately, I would go into “I’m sorry” mode which meant I would have to leave my bedroom, seek out my mother and try for absolution. She would not settle for the simple “I am sorry.” No. She would require an explanation of my offense and why I thought she was angry. This was a torturous conversation where I had to admit that I was wrong and she was right in her punishment. A tough lesson for a young child. It still meant I was grounded, but the tension would be gone.

I was pleased that day in the Ice Cream store that the little girl was quieted. She knew the eyebrow look. She was a good kid and her mother normally would have disciplined her, but Mom was having a melt down too and just didn’t want to deal with it. As I walked out of the store that day with my ice cream cone an older woman stopped me and said “I saw the look that you gave that little girl. Good for you!” Sometimes parents just need a little help.