Hello again, Flashback Friday! Did you think I had forgotten you?
When I was seven years old, I had two best friends. Jenny was five months younger than me and in my grade. Sam was five years older than me and in grade six. Practically a grown-up.
Sam was like the big brother I conjured up in imaginings but never actually had. He let me join in on his big-guy conversations with his pals, and he sought me out to say hi and talk with me about stuff. On my seventh birthday (a clown party), I rode home on the school bus and Sam followed all the way, pedalling madly on his bike. That's how cool he was.
One day, though, my friendship with Sam got me into trouble.
At lunchtime, Sam unzipped his parka -- one of those magical puffy affairs with dozens of secret pockets inside -- and opened it out to show me what was inside. It was exactly like you see the watch smugglers do on cartoons. Only Sam's secret pockets weren't lined with watches but a different kind of contraband instead: bubblegum. It was expressly forbidden at school.
I felt partly like a devious co-conspirator, and partly plain-old sneak. Sam told me not to say anything and I could have some gum after school.
We didn't make it that far. In the middle of afternoon lessons, when we were all sitting cross-legged on the floor -- it was a one-room, one-teacher school and all the grades studied together -- the principal came out.
"It's come to my attention," he said, "that someone has brought bubblegum into our school. We know who is responsible. Sam L, please come and stand here by me."
Stumped, Sam went and stood by the principal while most of the other students gasped.
"Anyone else involved in this, please come and stand here also."
I watched as the grown-up boys slowly got to their feet. Daniel went and stood by Sam. Andrew joined them. Then, awkwardly, I made my way out the front, too, and stood in that line of tall boys.
I don't remember what the principal said after that. I don't remember what our punishment was. I don't remember if we found out who spilled the beans. I don't even remember if I got a piece of the promised bubblegum.
All I remember is the ignominy of standing there, like the condemned smuggler I was, and the mingled look, half fear, half awe, beaming out at me from the faces of the other little girls as they saw me standing there -- a small girl among the big boys. I was one of them.
Beth -- who's afraid of the big bad Cecil?
Caitlin -- isn't mail great? (I have such a giant stash of letters saved from you -- your should see it sometime!)
Staish -- Manly! Pizzeria! Let's go sometime!