Neil Armstrong took one giant step onto the moon on Mom’s birthday in 1969. She took one small step onto the noggins of stratified thinkers about three years later.
It was an era of ritualized nonsense in high schools. Didn’t tuck your shirt after gym, the last class of the day? Some assistant principal who spent the Korean War pushing papers in Kansas would pull you aside.
America needs a hall czar when school’s out.
School was out before it began one glorious May morning days before senior graduation. Minnesota lakes were a short drive. Five minutes before first bell, four pals and I walked to the parking lot.
I drove my compact car home. The others trailed in Wesley’s sedan. I surprised Mom, who was vacuuming the living room before her short walk to work.
“We’re skipping school and going to the lakes,” I said.
“No, you’re not.”
“I never skipped school in my life. I want to do it once before I graduate.”
Mom looked over my shoulder at the eager faces in the car. “What about baseball?”
We’d be back for practice. The baseball coach taught at the junior high. He’d never know. This was more complicated than untucked shirts.
It was a farming community. Kids missed classes to work in the fields each spring. That would be Wes’ excuse. Like most, he’d write his own note. But we were big city folk.
That evening, Mom asked what she should write.
“Just say that in 12 years of school I had never skipped a day and wanted to see what it was like.”
She laughed. Presently, clever phrasing flowed from perfect cursive.
Good Lord, there was a long line of classmates in front of me the next beautiful morning in the principal’s office. Most of them clutched excuses written by pals. Damned if each Future Farmer of America hadn’t kept those amber waves of grain swaying.
The principal looked at my note. “Unexcused.”
“Unexcused? Look at the penmanship. You can’t excuse all these people and not excuse me. My Mom knows where I was.”
He launched into a tirade that sparked images of agitated jungle creatures on Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom.” Our absences were a travesty. Half the class was out. We should all be forced to take senior year over.
I addressed him by his last name, with a “Mr.” in there. “You don’t want to spend another year with us.”
A bold statement to a principal at the time. A beat later, he realized he could make that thought his. If we encountered him in a few years, he could say the punishment would have been worse for him. We’d all have a good adult laugh. Buy him a beer. Untuck his shirt.
His red-faced snit ended, and he repeated, “Unexcused.”
Mom’s typical reaction to stupidity was to blow a little air through closed lips. “Pffffft.”
She “pfffted” the rejection of her note — infuriating idiocy from someone with tiny clumps of power. If she called him, I never knew.
I just read about a 93-year-old grandmother in the United Kingdom who wanted to be arrested and jailed “so she could experience what it was like to be on the wrong side of the law.”
A granddaughter tweeted a thank-you to police.
“She is 93 years old and her health is failing, and she wanted to be arrested for something before it’s too late. She has a heart of gold and thoroughly enjoyed it today.”
I didn’t get excused. But Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed it.