Monday, April 19, 2010

The Principal is Your Pal – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Do  you have one particular experience about school that sticks out in your mind, above all others?  Describe it.”

Oh, yeah.  Sure do.

Spring 1970.  Sixth grade.  Franklin Elementary School in Redondo Beach, California.  My best friends, Judy Rich and Jill Brunson, and I were on the playground after lunch.

We were way at the very back of the blacktop area, jumping rope, or just chatting, or some such thing.  Minding our own business, definitely.

Two boys from our class approached us.  I wish I could remember exactly who but I don’t.  Anyway, they ran up to us and started calling us names.  Why?  Who knows!  It’s just what boys did.

We were three against two, and Jill was always brazenly brave, much more so than either Judy or me, so we began insulting them back.

That just made them mad and one of them kicked me in the stomach, hard.  The kick would have been bad enough.  Even worse is that his foot got caught in the waistband of my skirt, which was a wraparound style fastened with a single button at the waist and an oversized silver pin about halfway between waist and hem.

Neither button nor pin held up against the boy yanking his foot back.

My skirt dropped to the ground.

I screamed, horrified.

Judy screamed, too, equally horrified.  Jill shouted and ran at the boy, fists flailing.

I grabbed up my skirt and held it around me.  My face burned with embarrassment.

A playground attendant ran over to see what the ruckus was all about.  She grabbed the boys each by an arm as they tried to take off in the other direction.  The five of us were sent directly to the principal’s office.

But wait.  Here’s the really memorable part.

In Mr. Cleminger’s office we sat girl-boy-girl-boy-girl and got treated to one of his lengthy scoldings complete with his jabbing finger in our faces and his scowls and his pacing back and forth in front of us and his laying on thick the guilt, humiliation, and remorse, and especially the “what-would-your-parents-think???”

Finally, he wound down and went behind his enormous desk to reign from his straight-backed wooden chair. 

“Well?”  he asked us.  “What do you have to say for yourselves?”


Someone squirmed and their chair squeaked.  A foot moved along the dusty floor and created a sound like a quiet sigh.  A car honked somewhere outside. 

The huge wall clock ticked.

Mr. Cleminger glared at each of us, one at a time.  I was last.  When his piercing blue eyes bore into mine I could no longer hear anything but the blood pounding in my head.

The clock ticked again.  Someone swallowed loudly; it may have been me.

The very next instant, as one, all five of us kids burst out laughing.

We laughed and laughed and laughed; the kind of laughter that forces you wrap your arms around your middle because your belly hurts so much, the kind of laughter that makes the muscles in your face spasm and jump uncontrollably, the kind of laughter that won’t stop until tears are rolling down your cheeks and you’re gasping and choking and hiccupping.

As we finally wound down, and were wiping our faces and noses, Mr. Cleminger sat in his chair, his face totally impassive, and said, “I don’t see anything to laugh about.”

And totally set us off again!

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Talk about an embarrassing experience from high school.”