The year was 1984. My mother squeezed me into a blue jumper with a doily collar, red cable knit tights and black Mary Janes. It didn’t occur to either of us that it was March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, a pivotal day for a second grader, and I was sent to school without green in my ensemble. This was to be the worst day of my young life up to that point.
The first pinch was in the soft flesh behind my left armpit. It hurt like a motherfucker and instinctively every eight-year-old boy on the verge to juvie knows it.
The second pinch wasn’t entirely unexpected. I felt Danny scanning the room for his victim. Scott, Amy, Jennifer and I were the only classmates not wearing green. Amy and Scott were not above bitch slapping Danny in the jaw, so that left either Jennifer or I as his mark.
At second recess, I was confident I was safe so I joined an innocent game of jump rope. As I was in motion to enter the next swing, Danny grabbed my foot mid-air in a failed attempt to pinch my calf. He hooked the strap on my Mary Jane and I went down hard on the blacktop. My fall took skin from my hand, knees, chin and left no tolerance in me for any more St. Patty’s bullshit.
The jump rope dropped. The playground chatter hushed. I stood up bloodied and turned to my nemesis with a boiling rage I had never known before. Then, as if in slow motion, I took a step toward him and he stumbled off balance to his side. With a determined second step, my right leg swung up like a hammer and hit Danny square in the junk. It was a money shot. Soccer lessons paid off. He dropped to his knees and crumpled into a ball of shame with an audience of hundreds.
The recess teacher stood motionless (we all did) for several seconds before she realized it was her move. She wobbled past me and bent over Danny, not sure if she should touch him or pray for him. She attempted to turn him onto his side but he appeared unconscious. She brushed his shaggy hair away from his face to reveal he was indeed awake but hadn’t caught his breath. His mouth was wide open, tears streaming down his face, on the brink of insanity. With the wail of a tsunami siren, an unnatural, inhuman noise filled the yard and he was the epicenter. I started to cry and the recess teacher screamed for help. Teachers from all corners ran to Danny and I slowly backed away from the horror.
I was ushered into a meeting room just off the staff lounge. The office lady tended to my wounds while Danny was carried to the health room by the PE teacher. The Principal came in to ask me what happened. I was sobbing and hiccuping so hard he couldn’t understand a single word. Making little progress with his investigation, he patted me on the shoulder and left the room.
After an hour alone with my thoughts, I regained my composure and the Principle re-entered the room. I said nothing to incriminate myself. Do I need a lawyer? Am I going to feel the cold air of detention or worse, suspension?
His mouth was moving like a muted Muppet. I was in the throes of an acute anxiety attack and I may have pissed myself a little. I heard, “…witness…understand what happened… hope you’re not hurt,” with the continuity of Morse Code. He paused and I blankly nodded. With that, he stood up again and left the room never to see him again for the rest of my tenure at that school.
Danny’s mom was called to collect her disgraced son and my parents will only learn of this event when they read this article.
The lesson is this, teaching children it’s cute to pinch people who don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day can lead to serious harm, possibly even the need to transfer schools. Similarly, sending your child to school without a speck of green on March 17th is equally irresponsible and may lead to ball kicking of epic proportions. You’re welcome.
About the author: Mandy Downs can be found in two places: Ladyfremont.com is a holiday-themed collection of articles in the voice of a sassy mother who finds lavish holiday expectations appalling and anxiety-ridden gatherings justification for excessive drinking. She keeps her tea steeping arm’s length away and adds bourbon after 4:30 pm. She is not all that elegant or cultured but she tells it like it is, turning traditional “lifestyle” blogs on their heads. plunkandskedaddle.wordpress.com is a raw spotlight on my life as a mother. Deliberately disjointed with a variety of schizophrenic jumps between subject matter, this blog maps directly to my inner voice. Silly, vulnerable and authentic.