In some ways, I hope my son is just like me. In most ways, I hope he isn’t.
I was an ok kid who liked to run around naked. Front yard nudity is quite harmless when white-tailed deer and turkeys are the only ones to see it. It is, however, a little embarrassing when family friends remember you for it.
The only trouble I really ever caused was behaving inappropriately during inappropriate situations (ie: laughing when my parents were being serious). My sister was usually the one who did things she shouldn’t be doing (ie: pulling out my two front teeth, putting metal objects into electrical outlets, stapling my thumb to a Cabbage Patch Kid, and other bodily harm). I may be older, but she has always been freakishly strong.
But the worst thing I ever did, wasn’t a secret for long and continues to haunt and guilt me to this day.
I find it faintly ironic that today I work in politics, but back in 4th grade I got a D on a social studies test. Yes, that was a D as in dog. As a result, I was required to have my test signed by my parents. I swear I can still feel those two stapled pages burning my clammy hands. Fearing I might be grounded, and therefore not permitted to play Barbies with my sister, I signed the test myself.
I thought my forgery would be more impressive it was signed on behalf of my father. Also, I considered his perfectly legible printed signature would be much easier to duplicate than my mother’s curly cursive. After all, I was just learning cursive. Students were not permitted to have pens (how inhumane!) but a pencil might make the forgery obvious. Instead, I took out a brown crayon. My father, a coal miner at the time, would surely choose a brown crayon for himself.
With a steady and confident hand (after all, my plan was brilliant), I signed: RANDY. Just his first name, not his last. I handed the test over to my social studies teacher the following day with the signature displayed in brown Crayola on the top.
… or so I thought.
After class, I was told to stay behind. I wasn’t lectured or punished or given any indication she had spotted the forgery, just told that she wanted to speak to whichever of my parents picked me up from school that afternoon.
It was my dad.
I informed him that she wanted to see him but that I had no idea what she wanted to talk to him about. When we arrived at her classroom, I was told to wait in the hallway.
Then, reality hit me.
I was caught. The nasty teacher spotted the forgery. How dare she hold me accountable for my poor performance on her stupid test! If she wanted me to pass, she should have put easier questions on it! Worse still, was the thought of punishment. I hadn’t said any curse words so I didn’t expect soap on my tongue and a time out would be too easy. Instead, I began mourning the loss of my playtime with Barbies which I knew would inevitably be taken away.
I was called into the classroom and astonished at what I saw; laughter. Not the chuckling kind, but the my-sides-hurt kind. Although my teacher wanted to ensure my parents were aware of my poor test performance and bad behavior, she also recognized the ridiculousness of my effort. My dad, dry sense of humor and all, recognized that too.
Suddenly, I cried as they laughed. Not a guilty-cry but a my-life-is-over-and-I-will-cry-forever kind of cry.
As punishment, I had to retake the test during recess the following day. My parents made me study the questions I had missed, but my playtime remained fully intact. To this day, I wish I had gotten away with it. The embarrassment of being caught has stuck with me all these years later.
Never again did I try to forge my father’s signature (or my mother’s), but my father was always happy to write my excuses for missing school like this:
Please excuse my daughter, Jennifer, from missing school on January 11, 2012 because she had diarrhea.