Tales of a Grade School Delinquent

It was recess. I was hanging out by myself, absentmindedly doodling on the seat of my swing with the business end of a safety pin.

The thing you have to know about me - especially kid me - is that I was always drawing. Always. And on anything and everything you put in front of me. If there was a surface, and I had an instrument, I was doodling. It helped me concentrate because it served to occupy that place in my mind that was constantly demanding that I CREATE.

I found out years later tat my mom used to get notes from teachers suggesting that if I were to stop drawing pictures along all the margins of my homework, I might do better with neatness points. My mom's response was always a smiling shake of the head and, "Sunnie does so well on her homework because of the drawings that fill the white spaces. She doesn't act out in class, she doesn't distract anyone, she does her homework. And anyway, I think they're rather clever."

My mom is cool.

So there I was, thinking about something else while my hands etched images into the seat of the swing, and a boy I'd never seen before approached.

"Oh, I am so going to tell on you," said the boy.

I had no idea what he was talking about - had no idea who he was - so I ignored him. He threatened me with tattling a few more times, then huffed off in annoyance to my lack of groveling.

Apparently, he huffed off to make good on his threat because the next thing I knew, I was sitting in the principals office with a very red-faced, stern-eyed woman (perhaps the vice principal? I could never keep my adults straight) who very ungraciously labeled me a Vandal.

I had been minding my own business, and now I was a menace to society. The whole thing was so confusingly awful that I just sat there and cried - unable to explain or defend myself. This only caused me more despair. It seemed to me that I was forever unable to explain or defend myself, leaving myself vulnerable to the unfair and uninformed judgments of people who didn't doodle in the margins of their homework.

The stern-eyed woman expressed her immense displeasure with my behavior, and handed me a letter that I was to take home and have BOTH of my parents sign, and bring back to her tomorrow. I was convinced that if I didn't produce both signatures, I would spend the rest of my life in prison. Which was where Vandals belonged, anyway, I thought, so it would only be fitting.

I carried that letter home with heavy feet. I was so sure I would be disowned when my parents found out I was a Vandal - bringing shame upon the family name forever - that I did the only thing I could think of to save the situation.

I ran away.

I placed the letter on the counter with a note of my own, describing my sorrow for being such a disappointment, packed some graham crackers and a Capri Sun into my backpack, and took off for the hills.

Luckily, the hills were just on the other side of the neighborhood, so the walk wasn't too long. I figured I could make camp somewhere in the foothills and live like a mountain man. Or find a train and stow away across the land like Natty Gann.

On the way, I ran into Jamie and her friend, jumping on the trampoline in her friend's back yard (which shared a boarder with the creek that separated all the neighbor's yards from the foothills). Jamie asked me what I was up to - and I told her that I was running away.

I shared my graham crackers, and they shared their trampoline. I figured one more joyous and carefree jump before entering my life of solitude couldn't hurt. So I jumped with abandon.

Which was where, a few hours later, my parents found me.

I suspect, now, that Jamie was deliberately stalling me.

I climbed into the family van as a prisoner climbs into the carriage that would deliver him to the gallows. We made the long 30 second drive in silence.

At home, my parents sat me down to have the dreaded talk. Only - it wasn't so dreaded. Turns out that being a Runaway is worse than being a Vandal! Who knew?!

My parents explained to me that it didn't matter HOW much trouble I ever got into, they would ALWAYS love me and be there for me. I tried to imagine what could be worse than being a Vandal - but then they both signed the letter and put it into my bookbag to take to school the next day.

I don't remember if we had to pay for the damage to the (now far more interesting) swings and I missed allowance for a year, or if my mom called the principal and went to bat for me so I wouldn't be condemned to a life of orange-vested community service (I learned later that she was always going to bat for us).

The thing I do remember is: I had two parents that were totally, completely, 100% on my team.

(oh, and that one Capri Sun doesn't get you very far.)


Jeff and Ari said...

Adorable story ... how come everything you write comes out interesting?! It's a gift.

Danyelle said...

All day long I have been 'blah' and not caring about the fact that my "I can make it through this day" breakfast of ice cream got in my hair, until now.
Who knew that a red headed-vandal is what I needed to snap me out of it.
You are more adorable than adorable.

That Girl said...

I live in fear that my kids will run away.

Even though I did.


Hel said...

My runaway attempts were always thwarted by younger siblings wanting to come with me.... I just gave up.

Your parents are so cool.

MikkSolo said...

I'll provide the safety pin, I've got three swings in my backyard.

Nae said...

Darn. Now I wish I had doodled in my homework margins. Maybe I would have turned out as creative and exciting as you. :)

~j. said...

What a great feeling, to know that your parent are on your team.

And props for mentioning Natty Gann.

Jen said...

Oh my gosh! That was so much fun to read! You need to make a book of all of your fun stories! You'd be a millionaire!

cheryl said...

The most trouble I EVER got into with my parents as a child were the two times I wandered off without telling them where I was. I know as my child grows up, I'm going to have a supremely hard time balancing not wanting to repeat my very strict and overprotective upbringing with the reality of today's world.