The other night we went to the neighborhood sports bar for a bite to eat and ran into Hal and Gail Ivey. Hal immediately recognized Mary and we joined their table to share Villa Rica Elementary School stories.
Hal told us about his first run-in with our parents. Back in those days, the eighth grade class went to high school as sub-freshmen. One day, early in the year, Hal discovered the door to his homeroom still locked and decided to toss his text book through the open transom over the door. Hal said it was a big, heavy book and he didn’t want to tote it around while socializing in the halls. Well, who had to catch him but Mama? Mary and I grinned because we knew being caught by Mama did not usually lead to happy endings. When he confessed his rakish behavior, Mama told Hal that he could retrieve his book from Mr. Duncan, the school principal.
I’ve taught eighth grade boys before and I’ve known Hal a long time. I can guarantee you he had no high school swagger in his step whatsoever as he entered the principal’s office. He’d heard horror stories about the legendary paddle in the desk drawer. Instead of the paddle, all Hal got was a brief but stern lecture and an encouraging pat on the back. Hal never threw a book again.
Then we got to talking about our teachers, sharing embellished tales about our most and least favorite. When it comes to school stories, Mary always has the best ones, so I encouraged her to tell about her escapades in Mrs. Knight’s second grade class. At recess, the kids could either go outside to play or play in the classroom. Mrs. Knight had one rule though — once you came back inside the classroom from the playground, you could not go back through the door again. In fact, she stood like a sentry at the door to enforce this rule.
One day Mary played outside and came back to the room long before recess was over. I could have told anyone who asked me that Mary would not be contented inside a classroom if there wasn’t a lot of commotion going on. She found the inside kids boring, took one look at Mrs. Knight guarding the door and made a calculated decision.
When recess ended and the playground kids filed back into the room, Mary was in the middle of the pack.
“Mary, how did you get outside? You didn’t go out this door,” a very excitable Mrs. Knight exclaimed.
“Well, you said we couldn’t go out the door, so I just jumped out the window!” Mary replied.
Mrs. Knight practically had a conniption fit. Teachers up and down the hall heard her response.
“Mary those windows are eight feet off the ground. Are you OK? What will your Mama and Daddy say? We’ve got to call Mrs. Duncan to come get you right now!”
Mama promptly arrived to rescue Mrs. Knight from experiencing any more of Mary’s ingenious acts for the day. Or maybe she rescued Mary from Mrs. Knight’s “over-the-top” reaction. But, as I’ve mentioned before, you never wanted Mama to catch you doing what you weren’t supposed to do. And, to be fair, when she and Mary arrived home that afternoon, Mama sent Mary to our bedroom where she had to think about her truant behavior until the principal got home.
Neither of us had ever been spanked by Daddy and I was terrified for Mary’s sake while at the same time wished I was more adventurous like her. Daddy closed the bedroom door and we heard a little pop followed by Mary’s outcry. I let go of my breath and only discovered many years later that Daddy had laughed at Mary’s escapade and instructed her to cry out as he popped his own backside.
Yep, having Mary for a sister was an adventure then and still is. And when I think there’s no way out of a bad situation, Mary always discovers an open window that makes life more promising. The world could use a few more people like her to be in charge!
Garrett, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.