I know I enjoyed many good memories of First Grade at Branson Elementary, but there were also some tough ones.
My school picture you see is of myself in the first grade. The picture is torn because a kid on my school bus ripped it out of pure meanness. The fear and dread on my face in the picture appears to foreshadow his deed. My mom was NOT happy.
I remember playing one day army on the playground with Jeff Johnson. Jeff wore his leather cap that covered his ears. He looked like a fresh new World War II fighter pilot. Perfect for our adventure on the playground.
I remember us sneaking a couple of crayons from our classroom so we could mark our army base. Looking around the playground, we noticed the large concrete foundation next to the school building. Perfect.
I don’t remember exactly what we wrote, something like, Private Keep Out or Secret Base. At any rate, we didn’t quite finish writing when the big booming voice of Harold Bass startled us out of our socks.
“What are you boys doing” he bellowed. I’m not sure why Mr. Bass was on our elementary playground. He taught over at the high school. At any rate, his voice and demeanor were very intimidating. Jeff and I both stood shaking in front of our drawing, knowing immediately we were in deep trouble.
“Nothing,” I managed to half whisper.
“What you got behind your backs?” he growled.
“Nothing,” Jeff weakly chimed in.
Mr. Bass promptly walked up to Mrs. Stanley, our first-grade teacher, who was on playground duty. We wanted to run, but instead stood transfixed as they talked and kept looking over at us.
Soon Mrs. Stanley walked up to us, saw our crayon masterpiece on the building wall, then firmly grabbed each by our arms and marched us into the building, scolding us as we walked side by side of her into our classroom prison. No more recess that day.
The shame and fear of being caught still haunts me today, some 50 years after this event took place. As I look back on my life, there were other events where I was “caught” doing what I should not be doing. Sometimes by teachers, coaches or my parents.
At all times, by God.
As we tried to hide our crayon drawings, all of us try to hide our true selves to others and God. We stand in front of our pain, our hurt, our feelings of guilt or bitterness, and when asked what is going on, we say, “Nothing.” But it’s always something.
I’m thankful I have a God who sees me, and what’s behind and inside of me, and still loves me. Even when the picture of my life gets torn, He is there. He is committed to me for the long-haul and will never ever give up on me. And He will never give up on you.
I still like crayons, by the way.