as the next-to-youngest of seven siblings, my mom was often looked-after by the older children. those kids learned early how to be parents. my mom, on the other hand, learned nothing about parenting. this seemed to put her on rocky ground when i was small. unsure of how to best handle the daily challenges of parenting, she brought to the table an anger born of fear and uncertainty.
being the regular recipient of her anger was a major incentive to be the best possible good-little-girl i could be. unlike many of my friends and classmates, i never faced difficult decisions about whether to sneak out at night, or go to beer-drinking parties, or even skip my homework. i didn’t feel safe enough to experience that rebellious teenager stage until i was in my thirties!
i had a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t childhood. despite that fact, i just kept trying to be perfect, wanting the approval i never got. even while trying so hard to always do the right thing, somehow it seemed that everything i did was wrong. and punishments were pretty severe.
so it was with that ever-present fear of my mother’s anger and punishments that i realized one afternoon that i had left my homework assignment at school, teachers were gone for the day, and the school was locked. not only would i face my mom’s wrath, but also the unhappy nun who taught my eighth-grade class.
my friend sharon suggested that we check the first-floor windows at the school. i was afraid to even check them, because if one was unlocked, the next decision would be excruciating. in the time it took to consider the possibilities, sharon had discovered the unlocked window.
hearts pounding, we looked around like the criminals we were about to become. there was no one in the parking lot, no one on the playground, no one in the direction of the church, no one on the rectory porch. bracing our tennies against the outside wall, we pushed and pulled ourselves upward, onward, right through the now open window.
once we were inside, our nervous fear of being caught propelled us up the stairs to the second floor. down the hall, into the classroom, grab the paperwork- — now we were really scared. at a dead run we headed back to the stairs, tore down the first flight, made the turn to the second flight. unfortunately, the closer we got to getting away with this madness, the more frightened we became; the more frightened we were, the faster we ran.
so, the momentum with which we hit the landing between floors carried us across the landing and slammed us into the bright red fire extinguisher which flew off the wall and slid down the stairs, all the while spraying foam all over said stairs and the adjoining walls. if we could just get out of there, no one would ever know who had vandalized our school.
finally reaching the open window, we stepped, one leg at a time, backwards through the window, onto the playground tarmac. letting go a huge sigh of relief, we slowly backed ourselves directly into the waiting arms of our sweet old parrish priest, father meyer. Oh. My. God.
we headed home after a very brief explanation which included nothing at all about the fire extinguisher and foam covering the stairs. the anticipation of punishment was by then worse than anything anyone, even my mother, could have done to us. and, until today, father meyer has remained the only person to ever know about the two budding young criminals he caught climbing through a window of the school.