Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ve been carrying a burden of guilt for too long. I have a confession to make: I have been less than forthcoming.
For many moons, I have been living a lie. The year was 1988, and I was in the second grade (you may have read about my entry into this grade level in a previous blog post). The offense: vociferous rowdiness on the school bus. The driver had heard my outside voice from within the school bus one too many times. He promised that a pink demerit slip would be sent home. He was a man of his word. This unbridled disorderliness is not the source of my shame, however; nay, I fear that spurts of uncontrollable hyperactivity are hardwired into my DNA. My personal sorrow is in the deception that ensued.
Every day for a week, I checked the mailbox for an envelope with the return address of the grade school. One afternoon, it arrived. I committed a federal offense by opening this parcel meant for your eyes only.
Inside the envelope, as promised, was the dreaded pink-tinted disciplinary report. While I had been persistent in checking the mail daily, I had not the foresight to plan what to do after I had actually opened the fateful notice. So, I did what came naturally without thought: I ripped the demerit into a thousand little pieces, and… Now what!?!? I had torn the conduct report to smithereens but had no exit strategy. Staring at the pink scraps cradled in my hands, I knew that proper disposal was essential. This crime had to be concealed. Whatever trouble I would have encountered with an intact demerit would be multiplied by as many times as there were shreds of deceit in my palms.
If I threw the shreds away in the kitchen trash, I suspected that you might see the papers and piece them together like the jigsaws we used to do together. I could just imagine the setting: Dad retrieving the bits of paper from the can under the sink, spreading them out on the kitchen table, calling me in to help him with the puzzle, saying, “Help me find the border pieces.” There I would be, sweating as each new fragment was assembled and the truth of my disciplinary infraction and subsequent subterfuge came into sharp relief. No, the kitchen trash would not do.
I next considered the trashcan in the garage, but rejected it on similar grounds. One solution remained. I looked both ways to avoid being sideswiped by parental traffic and sprinted to the backyard where I dug the deepest hole my little hands could in the few minutes I had before you would return home from your hard day at the office. I placed the tattered pink pieces into the hole and hastily covered it up with the dirt I had displaced moments before. My secret was buried.
You came home, and I put on my (flushed and sweaty) cherubic face. I prescreened and filtered every word that came forth from my lips in the days that followed, careful not to entangle myself in a web of fibbage. I was a second grader in crisis, filled with inner tumult. I was weighed down by the overwhelming guilt, but I was too far in to extricate myself from the quagmire. It was more than any 7 year-old should have to bear.
Garbage night had always been my least favorite, but on this particular week, Thursday could not come soon enough. Shortly before the trashcans were to be taken to the curb, I made like a dog at his favorite patch of dirt and dug like mad. I recovered as many of the dirt-stained shards of my notice of punishment as I could and carefully transferred them to the soon-to-be-collected garbage. The next morning, my plan continued without hitch, as only a few bits of pink debris on the ground around the garbage cans were all that remained of my demerit. I, of course, gathered them as quickly as I could to preempt either of you from picking up a piece or two and deciphering from the fragments of text still legible (like “while the bus was moving” and “like a wild dog”) what had transpired.
Unfortunately, Mom, Dad, the dishonesty didn’t stop here; one lie leads inescapably to the next. I feared your punishment for my misconduct (which almost certainly would have been less agonizing than the torment I put myself through in devising and concealing my plan). This I had managed to avoid. Hours of scheming and duplicity spared me minutes on the time-out chair and a handwritten letter of apology to the bus driver.
What was unavoidable, of course, was the punishment mandated by the school. The justice of Dr. Xxxxxx and his sidekick Mr. Xxxxxx was severe; they ruled with an iron yarmulke. Their penalty: that I be prohibited from Friday swimming class, which, as it turns out, wasn’t much of a punishment for me. I wasn’t all that fond of swimming class (you remember the time that I skinned the entire ftront side of my body trying to impress my classmates by jumping backwards off the diving board). Plus, missing swimming class meant I would be have to spend the time normally reserved for my aquatic misadventures playing Stickybear Typing on the class’s Apple IIc. Most of my friends were addicted to Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, but I was a Stickybear guy all the way, so this as an alternative to swimming wasn’t such a bad deal. In fact, if it didn’t require such shameful misrepresentation, I might be persuaded to engage in disorderly school bus conduct more often.
I was barred from swimming, but you sent me to school with swimming trunks and a towel. I couldn’t very well bring them back home neatly folded in my gym bag the way they were when I left for school. After the closing bell of the school day and before my bus left the parking lot, I scampered to the lavatory for appropriate modification of swimming materials. The swimming trunks were soaked in water from the sink, crumpled up into a ball and stuffed back into my bag. The towel was thoroughly spattered with water such that it was damp but not dripping. Finally, I splashed my hair and proceeded to towel dry it with my dampened towel.
I returned home, and unfortunately, you were none the wiser.
Mom, Dad, I may have avoided the earthly punishment you might have (appropriately) meted out for my misbehavior and cover-up. But, take solace in the fact that I have been afflicted with this thorn in my flesh, this pang in my conscience for the past 19 years.
I'm sorry. Can you find it in your hearts to forgive me?