My Criminal Past

April 14, 2021 at 3:58 pm 1 comment

One time, in grade school—Catholic grade school—I forgot to have my Mom sign my homework.

I did the homework, and my Mom was aware I did the homework. I simply forgot to have her sign it. I do not really understand why this was such a big deal—having a signature on a piece of completed homework—but, the next morning, when the nun said, “Place your signed papers on the desk,” I panicked.

I was 6.

Every other kid in the class placed a piece of paper on his/her desk. The nun moved around the classroom, hovering over each set of tiny shoulders to witness The Signature. I’m guessing we were seated alphabetically; I’m not sure about that, but she started at the other end of the room—and that gave me time to think.

All I had in the world was a sheet of Math problems and a #2 pencil. I stared at my supplies. Then I got an idea. An awful idea. I got a wonderful, awful idea. I slid that paper in close and, quickly, furtively, I did the deed:  I signed my mother’s name.

In case you’re not sure, 6-year-olds have the penmanship of a first-grader and have not yet learned cursive.

I remember that moment. I remember it clearly. I thought to myself, “It will be more believable if I only use her first name.”

Such brilliance under pressure. Such suavité.

And so I forged my mother’s name, K-a-y, in pencil, in first-grader letters. Then I sat back, and I enjoyed a (very short-lived) respite from the terror that had gripped me since class began.

Then, the nun was there; she was behind me, a bit to the left, looking over my shoulder. I was nervous, but I played it cool, waiting for her to move on.

She did not move on.

Folks. It has been 50 years-plus since that particular moment in my life, and I tell you, I have never been more frightened that I can recall.

The punishment was swift, creative, and horrifying. I had to do an agonizing Show and Tell for my classmates. Then I had to leave the classroom, walk the long, dark, empty hall and visit other classrooms. As instructed, I knocked politely; once given permission to enter, I walked to the front of the room, told the teacher what I had done, and asked if I could please stand there and tell her class about my evil deed.

That bit is kind of a blur, but I recall that my voice wavered and my body shook. By the time I returned to the seat in my own classroom, I was solemn, humiliated, and a little dizzy. I may have had an out-of-body experience.

Whew. {shudder}

It was a tough lesson but a lesson learned well. From that day forward, I have avoided public speaking like the plague.  

But, with some practice, I got quite good at forging my mother’s signature.  

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