Check me out. I was an angel. And I say that with just the slightest bit of sarcasm because on most accounts I was. I am a rule follower. If a rule is in place, my default thinking is it must be there for my own good. Rules are not made to be broken; they are made to be respected and strictly adhered to. And honestly, this reverence for rules has served me well into middle age.
There is one time I strayed from the straight and narrow that haunts me to this day. Not so much for the rule-breaking itself, but for the lie it caused me to tell my mom–a lie I had to confess before she passed away a few years ago. In case you’ve moved to the edge of your seat, I assure you that you can relax. Unfortunately I’m not about to make a scandalous confession. Instead I’m going to talk about 5th grade recess.
I’ve never been athletic. Sure, I rode my bike the few blocks to school and pretended to “get physical” Olivia Newton-John style in my pink leg warmers and leotard, but the truth was, I loathed exercise, P.E., track-and-field days–basically anything that required me to run, get out of breath, or get sweaty in the hot Arizona sun. I loved rain days at school because that meant we got to stay inside and play games instead of being forced out to the playground for recess. I know. It was a sad state to be in. But things changed in 5th grade when we got to graduate to the “big kids’ playground”–I discovered tether ball.
I remember my initial excitement in telling my mom about my new learned skill and the immediate disappointment that settled in as she spoke the words, “that doesn’t sound safe to me, Shannon. I really don’t want you playing tether ball–you could break your nose” (a fair assessment considering how far my nose sticks out). Thinking back on it, I’m not sure it really was a rule or command my mom was giving me not to play tether ball but it was something I knew would disappoint her. For the first time in my life, I rebelled.
I owned that court. Each day at recess, a line would form at each of the courts. Each victor played until a challenger stepped up who could beat them. Most days I was unstoppable, unless one opponent happened to line up at my court: Rhoda. Rhoda was an 21-year-old trapped in the body of an 11-year-old. She was pretty, popular, but oftentimes mean. And she was a champion tether player. Weeks passed and I held my own, sometimes beating Rhoda, but mostly losing my streak when she stepped up.
One day Rhoda was in a particularly mean mood. I had beaten her the day before at recess and she looked at me and said “I’m going to knock those glasses right off your face.” Guess what? She did. And my nose might have bled. When I found my plastic-rimmed glasses they were broken in half down the middle–right at the nose rest. Defeated, I returned to class where my teacher helped me tape up my frames for the rest of the day.
At home that night when my concerned mom asked what had happened I lied. I told her I had fallen off my bike on the way to school. And she believed me. That week, we took my glasses to be repaired (the idea of that just boggles my mind because of today’s throw-away society). I never confessed…at least not until about 20 years later, when I was finally sure I had made enough respectable decisions in my life that my mom could forgive me my terrible act of rebellion. And she did.
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