Light & Shadow #42

Reassurance — Moscow, ID Circa 1979

It was the first day of the first grade for this youngster, but words of reassurance from his mother appear to have done little to overcome his trepidation. Even though it was over six decades ago, I have vivid memories of grade school — like sounds, smells, Hula Hoops, fire drills, a cracked noggin’, and peeing my pants.

The building was only 20 years old when I first stepped inside, but the wooden stairs creaked like it was a hundred. It smelled of janitorial supplies or funky kids — I’m not sure which.

I thought Hula Hoops were a rage of the times, but I was wrong. Google says they were a thing as far back as 500 BC. Crazy — I didn’t know they had colored plastic back then.

The least they could have done is give us kids a little warning about fire drills. The first time the klaxon horn went off it scared me half to death. For days after, I worried it would go off again. Where was mom when I needed her!

We played a game where kids would join hands and run around in a big circle. Somehow, I came loose and spun out of control until my head met the jagged edge of a sidewalk. Blood was shed that day and my stitches evidence of playground dangers.

I loved airplanes and fancied myself a pilot one day. My friends and I flew over enemy territory with arms outstretched like wings and sand in each hand. We dropped the sand while over our target and flew back to base. Between missions, a sixth-grader came up to me and said the principal wanted me in his office. In true warrior-pilot fashion, I told him to buzz off. It was the same the second and third time he appeared. 

On attempt number four, Mr. Richardson had me by the collar and proceeded to drag me from the playground. As we ascended those creaky stairs to his office, the flood let loose. The first words out of my mouth were, “Hey, you made me piss my pants!” Gruffly, he said, “what did you say?!” “Hey, you made me pee my pants,” I corrected.

The charges were reckless endangerment for throwing sand and resisting arrest. I served my time sitting on the floor in the warden’s office during recess for three days.

With my wings clipped, I soared the skies no more.

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