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by Dave Friant

We all took them. Swerves from conduct boundaries established by our parents. Yellow card infractions (soccer terminology) with no legal ramifications tied to them. Miscues that turned out to be ripe for adolescent ledger entries at the time. So often embarrassing and on occasion hurtful for those who loved us. I’m sure thoughts of “what have we done (or not done) with this kiddo of ours?” crossed the minds of mom and dad in prior years. Fortunately, there were never any noteworthy negative outcomes down the road. No recalls by convicted mass murderers of similar earlier years conduct that were factors in leading them astray.

Let’s get on with it. By no means is this an all- inclusive list. Tip of the iceberg. We’re talking War and Peace length if all of my antics were to be referenced.

I often as a teenager in the mid-60’s would visit with my best growing up friend and hang out on his family’s couch. His name was Bobby Estell. On one particular occasion, his mother Gretchen prepared for us each a sandwich to devour prior to an upcoming sandlot baseball game. It was made with slightly stale and buttered bread, and had on it a raggedy at the edges piece of baloney. No cheese. No pickles. Nothing close to an appetite pleaser. The ‘Here, take it” moment of exasperated parental involvement by this mother of 4 was typical.

Gretchen was not a nice lady. She struck fear into most every teenager with whom her son interacted. She continuously cursed. Never did it appear that my best friend’s mom was experiencing anything close to a good day. The movie was not made until years later, but she favored actress Anne Ramsey, the domineering and grungy mother of Danny DeVito in Throw Momma from the Train.

After nearly gagging on half of the sandwich while Bobby was out of the room, I took a step never thought to be in my repertoire. I simply could not stomach the rest of it. No way was a return of it to the preparer a reasonable option. She would take issue and guilt me out verbally. My quick decision to make it disappear was chancy. Immediate and down the road impacts were not considered.

I took the remainder of the yucky gut-twister and not so carefully stuffed it between the cushions at the end of the couch. Task completed. A sense of relief. The fear of what might be in store if even a minor investigative effort was undertaken did not enter my thoughts.

The oddest part of the story was the absence of confrontation by anyone regarding the sandwich caper. This is the first admission of culpability I’ve made since the incident. Most of the principals are dead. But my 50-year-old sister, spouse, children, and grandchildren are no doubt scratching their heads.

As I view it some sixty years later, two possibilities exist for the lack of response. The first involves Gretchen’s housekeeping practices, or lack thereof. It’s conceivable that evidence of the misdeed was never discovered. Re-positioning of the cushions for cleaning purposes was not a part of the Estell approach of cleaning. The second points directly to what might have been an appetizer for the medium sized family of rats that occupied sections of the house. Who knows? Note: Any continuance of this possibility with graphic descriptions is viewed as unnecessary.

The second act of veering from the straight and narrow took place in my 7th grade English class. The class was taught by Mrs. Reeves. She was a domineering elderly widow (nicknamed “Bulldog” by a select few troublemakers in her classes) with extremely arthritic fingers. In the midst of a sentence diagramming question, Mrs. Reeves pointed at me with her bent-at-the-knuckles right hand and asked, “what do you think?” I without hesitation replied, “are you asking me or Ronnie?” Ron Garrison was to my immediate right and was not a part of this lame attempt at what I mistakenly viewed as humor. The venture was an effort to mimic Groucho Marx who was at the time my favorite comedian.

Dead silence from the class. More shock than any holdbacks of laughter. Within a minute of my unsuccessful bid to gather support from my peers, Mrs. Reeves escorted me directly to principal Newcomb’s office. Busted. No room to wiggle out from the impact of this escapade. Nothing in the neighborhood of funny was observable from this mean-spirited display of crudeness. Yes, a “good talkin-to” took place before I was sent home early that day. My parents were devastated. Mom was embarrassed and hurt. Dad was upset and fuming. No physical “whoopin” took place, but mom’s tears about some missteps she may have made in child-rearing practices left me down in the dumps.

Lessons learned. A halt (gradual at times) from a downward spiral. Thank the good Lord! As noted by author Roy T. Bennett in one of his works, “The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.”

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