The most trouble I’ve ever been in

Cloakrooms always remind me of the incident - the huge injustice

I confess to having been in the odd spot of bother over the years.

Strangely enough though, only one springs to mind.

I was about ten years old and a tomboy. Growing up with two older brothers had not given me much opportunity for girly pursuits – whatever they were. I was happier in the company of boys, happy playing more boisterous games in the schoolyard, running wild with balls and rackets.

I wasn’t at all interested in playing with the girls.

Back in those days our school bordered vacant land covered in trees and bushes – it even had a creek running through it. It was off limits during school hours, but before and after school and on the weekends it it was a great wonderland for us. We always imagined it as being huge – things seemed so much bigger then.

On the day of the trouble, the girls must have been feeling aggrieved at me. Aggrieved or jealous or some other sort of angst.

After our lunch break when we ere seated back at our desks, I was asked to stand up. Mr Graydon was my favourite teacher – we got on really well and I couldn’t understand why he was asking me. I sensed trouble. He said that I had been seen in the wasteland during the lunch break – with boys. What was I doing there? Did I not know it was out of bounds?

I had not been there. They were lying.

But I had no defence.

I was told to step out into the cloakroom to receive my punishment – six lashings of the leather strap. (Yes – perfectly acceptable those days!) Everyone’s eyes followed me as I walked to the back of room and through the door. I was planning on defending myself – telling my beloved teacher that it wasn’t true, that everyone was lying, I hadn’t been there at all.

When he came through the door carrying the strap, he raised his fingers to his lips in a ’sshh’ gesture, and pointed me toward the corner of the room. My memory is of him picking up the stalk of a dried bulb … but it may have been the strap. Still with his fingers over his lips, he whacked the bulb against a stack of wooden seating forms.

He whacked it again, and again – six times in total.

He told me to wait a few minutes (to compose myself) before returning to the classroom. “Keep your head down,” he said. Then he retreated to the deathly silent room.

As instructed I quietly opened the door and with my head bowed low made my way back to my desk. All eyes were wide and focused on me looking for the tears – where there were none.

I met up with my teacher at a school reunion several years ago. I reminded him of the incident and asked him if he remembered. He didn’t.

I however, have never ever forgotten his act of kindness and trust, his sparing of the rod,

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