Teachers, Fire and Rocks

Posted on January 21, 2011


Boy, was his face red and scary!  About five of us were skipping class and roaming the hallways of our middle school, avoiding teachers. When Mr. Carroll found us near the auditorium, near the stairs to the lower level of the school, someone yelled, “Run!” He screamed at the group of us, telling us to stop where we were or we’d be in big trouble. I was the only one who kept running. My friends ditched me! Later that day, walking through crowds of kids finding their way to their lockers, my math teacher found me. Mr. Sweeney glared at me, stopped me in my tracks and said, very seriously, “Stay right where you are! Don’t move! Stand right on that tile!” Seeing an opportunity for humor I replied calmly, “Which one?” In one day I’d made two men so mad I thought their faces were going to pop open. I thought it was hilarious. But I didn’t laugh. And a bit scary. But I didn’t cry. I loved not backing down in the face of teenage danger. I think I got a detention. But it was Spring and my friend Ruth was with me and we went “shopping” when we were released. It was a pretty good day.

Around that time I started playing with fire. I’ve heard that means something . It was just a phase and I’m glad I wasn’t subjected to therapy for passing through it. Leslie and I would go down to the bogs near our house and light fires. Just little ones. But one day the wind swept the flames into a nearby tree and we couldn’t control it. We laughed as we desperately ran from the sand pile to the fire, watching it grow and spread, finally running home to hide out in my room. Then we heard the fire truck. When one of the firemen came to my house  I was in my driveway with my mom, hyperventilating. He said he’d had a tip from a girl across the bog who said she’d been watching two girls lighting fires. I said that we’d seen the same two girls and they ran the other way. He and my mom believed me. That was close!

Then there was the pebble-throwing. Leslie and I would crouch under the trees near my pony’s stall and tell jokes as we threw small rocks  in front of cars. Our intention was to scare people. I imagined passengers and drivers wondering what they’d run over. We were too naive to contemplate being the cause of an accident. But, I loved the humor in it. More possible therapy! One car screeched to a halt after we actually hit it and we tore off running to my room. Again. I lived above the garage and had a separate entrance so I could come and go without being noticed. A few minutes later my mom called me downstairs and I met a very angry man at the door who said his wife had nearly had a heart attack because a small bomb had hit the windshield! We knew how to make bombs? Adults sure do exaggerate when they’re upset, I thought. Again, I said that my friend and I had been out there but we saw two other girls at the scene of the crime running in the opposite direction. And they both believed me. I can’t remember where Leslie was!

So many years ago and I haven’t changed much. I love to laugh and to push the rules a bit. But nothing I do is meant to cause harm. However, to see the good in all the nonsense of growing up, there’s a common thread I see as I remember a lot of the stupid things I did. Sometimes I had a lot of courage. And I made up good stories that people actually believed. I was told I have an innocent face. That has always made me laugh. It always confused me that I could do something terrible and no one asked why? So I don’t lie anymore. Haven’t since those days when I thought it didn’t matter. No more alter ego either. I always show up for my life, and am getting better at not making excuses or rewriting history so that I’ll look good.

And my kids like the stories as unfiltered as I can make them. I think seeing me as an imperfect person who has grown up to be pretty normal helps them to breathe a sigh of relief. That maybe on some level they’re understood. And I’m not sending them for therapy…yet!

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