March 14, 2017

Mrs. Smith was a formidable woman from Texas. She was slim and about 6 feet tall. Her voice was loud, and she ran a tight ship. Today we might say she had “helmit hair,” but in the 1960s it didn’t seem too unusual.

For most of the year, I was a good girl. I did my work. I played nicely. I stayed out of trouble. Until the day I “followed the leader” in the girls’ bathroom and participated in locking all the doors and crawling out underneath.

A classmate happened to come in the bathroom just as I crawled out of the last stall. She saw an opportunity and took it. “Ohhhhh,” she gasped as she hurried out of the bathroom (without using it). I can still see the skirt of her plaid dress swishing around the corner. When I walked into the classroom, she had a triumphant look on her face.

Mrs. Smith was quietly steaming. Her punishment for me was to write 25 times, “I will not go into the girls’ bathroom and lock the doors so others cannot use it.” She purposely made it 2 lines, she said, so that I would have to think about the whole statement every time I wrote it rather than doing it the quick way. It was customary then to get such tasks done more quickly by writing “I” down the page 25 times; then “will;” then “not,” and so forth. However, the clincher was when she said, “Bring this back tomorrow with your parent’s signature.”

That night I excused myself after dinner and went to my room to complete my punishment. Contritely, I wrote in my most careful cursive with a newly acquired blue cartridge pen. Maybe if it looked good, my mom wouldn’t read what it said. I could hope.

The next morning I got ready for school with butterflies in my stomach. I waited until the last minute. As I walked out the door, I said, “Mom, you need to sign this.” My dad was already gone to work (thankfully). She glanced quickly and signed it without saying a word. I walked to school that bright, spring morning feeling like I had disgraced my family. (I might have been just a little bit sensitive.)

It was many years before I learned how my parents laughed and laughed at the way their good little girl chose to be naughty.

 

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3 comments on “March 14, 2017

  1. johnrereads says:

    I love this! I always knew you were a rebel. Sweet story
    like the little details like the way the plaid dress swished…

    I am please to report this sort of bathroom behavior is still happening today.
    I wonder what your students would say if you shared this with them?

  2. You are writing my life in your piece, only I purposely got into trouble. The funny thing is that, when I was summoned to the principal’s office, Sister Barnabas, I had to march past my mother who was the school secretary! Loved the morning, when you had to fess up… painful. I also liked this line, “Mrs. Smith was quietly steaming.” I can almost imagine a scene like that in “A Christmas Story” with Ralphie’s teacher.

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