The Great Recess Caper of 1961
A seven-year-old growing up on a U.S. military base in Japan, I was full of all of the typical questions that run through a typical seven-year-old’s mind. Like “what if me and my buddy Stevie could devise a plan to get all of our classmates’ valuables: gum, candy, cool light-up pencils with little troll doll erasers, oh yeah, and lunch money? We’ll do it while everyone is out of the room for recess. Here we go.
Stevie was a room monitor, responsible for making sure the windows (accessible outside from the ground) to the class were all locked before allowing the students to spill out into the huge playground for thirty minutes of play for recess. See where this is going? So, here is where the plan sort of took a wrong turn. Everything was fine and we had really pulled it off so far: Stevie made sure the window was left open for us to re-enter the classroom, we got everything of value in every desk, put it into a brown paper bag, and stashed it under a hissing old steam-stained radiator just outside the classroom in the hall. We had pulled it off. Sort of. As our classmates re-entered the room, everyone started opening up their desktops and immediately cries rang out about missing money, gum, candy, cool light-up pencils with little troll doll erasers, and lunch money.
Everyone except me and Stevie that is.
Evidently, our teacher read the situation, bearing in on Stevie and me as we cowered at our desks. Not being a seasoned thief (this was my very first caper), I panicked. I sprang to my feet, raised both hands and said “Hold it! What would I do if I were the thief? I would put everything in a bag and put it out in the hall under the radiator.”
Now I can tell you that there were very few things that could be assuaged, forgiven, or even ignored in our family. But the ONE thing you did not do. You were NOT a thief! I knew this and it kept ringing through my ears as I lay in my bed at 2pm with eight comic books stuffed under my pajamas as I feigned sleep. I knew there would be hell to pay when Mom came home and saw the red slip of paper from the school on her dresser. Now I would like to say that I was overly cautious and didn’t need to take such silly precautions because Mom and I just talked it out rationally and I took away a valuable life lesson.
I never took anything that wasn’t mine from that day forward and my ass still stings from that beating.