Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Hamilton Walk Of Shame

We all have those moments....

Those adolescent moments where we are mortified beyond belief... where we wish we could just crawl under a rock... where we just wanna die from embarrassment.

It will not come as a surprise to you that I have had several such moments. I have shared a few of them with you on this blog... The Legend Of Moonshine

And, just for the sake of embarrassing myself further, I will share yet another one... (remind me to share with you how I got the nickname Hot Lips Leopard Pants in the 7th grade...that's a story for another day...)

I attended a small K-7 elementary school in the mountain community of Anza, California. I believe my elementary years were spent with no more than a  hundred other mountain kids, at most. 

This was the original school site in 1956, When I attended, an office was added to the right as well as a few modular classrooms. That field behind this building was our playground.

My former classmates may be upset with me... but here we are! All 36 representatives of the 5th, 6th, & 7th grades in 1979/1980! 

I'm still in touch with a few of these lifelong friends... and many of them can attest to the following tale... they can validate what I say as being the gospel truth.

Take a good, long look at our teacher in the glasses... the scandalous, yet loveable, Carl Cripe. Many of us were subjected to his unorthodox teaching styles and bizarre classroom management.... and we loved him for it!  He is one of a kind! So much so that each and every one of us who had him as a teacher has a story to tell that begins with, "remember that time, when Mr. Cripe..."

He was such a character; a beloved character in my childhood. One I looked up to as a father figure. We revered his gruff and gravely voice. The way he'd stare you down over those glasses when you were misbehaving (I never misbehaved... I just wanna make that clear... lol).

Yes... his coffee cup was THAT disgusting!!!
The smell of pipe tobacco will ALWAYS make me think of him... he often lit that pipe in class and would puff on it in between math equations, his teeth clenching the pipe while he spoke out of the side of his mouth like Popeye!
I think of him EVERY time I wash a coffee cup, as that was forbidden in his world! His coffee cup was blackened with months and months of black coffee consumption without even so much as an occasional rinse, let alone a full washing.... Oh, how I remember the wrath that befell us all when someone inadvertently washed that cup !!! 
In addition to all of these endearing qualities that would make most parents run for the hills (wait a minute... we WERE in the hills!!!), Carl Cripe had a tradition carried out year after year at 7th grade graduation. And heaven help anyone that fell prey to his tradition. This is where my story really begins....

It was 1979, the beginning of 7th grade for me at Hamilton Elementary. My last year attending this little school before joining the older kids on their 2 hour bus ride down the hill to civilization at the larger city schools.

I had been invited over to a weekend slumber party at my friend Samantha's house. Being that I lived a good 15 miles away from Sam, I packed my brown paper grocery bag with my supplies for the weekend (toothbrush, curling iron, change of clothing, PJ's) and took it with me to school on Friday, planing to ride the bus home with Sam at the end of the day.

All went well as planned, and I'm sad to say that I don't really remember much about that slumber party. I'm sure we all had fun swimming, dancing, having pillow fights, talking about the boys we had crushes on.... I don't remember the details, but I know I had fun.

I remember how thrilled I was that I had a pair of "new-to-me" PJ's to take to the slumber party. I didn't have much growing up, but my parents provided me with what they could. My mother had recently been thrift store shopping and had picked something special for me to wear to the sleep over... something that was way too old for my 13 years, I realize now, but I felt so grown up in my very own, bright red baby doll nightie!!! It was sheer with ruffles, and matching panties... WHAT WAS MY MOTHER THINKING !!!???

While the other girls were sporting flannel PJ's, I was dressed like, well.... like the town harlot. No harm, no foul... the other girls didn't seem to have any negative feedback on my PJ selection and I managed to steer clear of Sam's little brother, so my virtue and all-but-invisible reputation was safe.

Monday morning came, and we all clamored back on to the school bus and off to school we went. The bus would generally arrive early enough in the morning to afford us the opportunity to play on the playground; something that I still enjoyed even at 13. We'd spin on the bars until our palms were blistered, play freeze tag on the big, metal jungle gym, or we'd simply sit on top of the lunch tables and gossip.

I don't remember what activity I participated in that chilly Monday morning, but I must have been thoroughly engrossed, because when the bell rang for line-up, I completely forgot about my paper bag of slumber supplies.

I obediently lined up with my peers, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and ran off to first period. About ten minutes into class, I realized that I had forgotten my paper bag on the lunch table. A sense of fear and dread raced through my veins as I pleaded with my teacher to let me go outside to retrieve it. I ran outside and to my dismay, the bag was nowhere in sight. I ran to the office to ask Ms. Russo if my belongings had been turned in, to which she replied, "No."

Feeling sick to my stomach, I returned to class and not one second after my butt had settled into my desk chair, did Mr. Cripe hold my bag of "goodies" up in front of the class for all to see!!! Now then, if I had been smart, I wouldn't have reacted... after all, there was nothing inside that bag that implicated who the owner was.  However, I was NOT that smart and quickly bolted from my seat in a futile attempt to grab my bag from his grip.

A futile effort, indeed, as I was a mere 5 ft tall and was clearly out of my mind if I thought I could get anywhere near that bag. I jumped, I reached, I pleaded, I dropped to my knees and begged while my classmates laughed behind me. But I was kept at an arm's length as Mr. Cripe swayed the bag back and forth and wondered, out loud, just what was in that bag that had me so frantic!!??!!

HE wouldn't ...

HE couldn't ....

HE DID !!!

In front of the entire 7th grade class, Mr. Cripe pulled out that bright red baby doll nightie and held it up in front of him and pranced around the classroom with his pipe hanging out of his mouth ... laughing and singing while I pooled into a puddle of pure mortification.

Now, if this weren't bad enough, I was then enlightened as to the fate of my bright red baby doll nightie...

It would not be returned to me on that day with my toothpaste and other remnants remaining in the bag...

It would not be returned to me at the end of the week, or even after serving any form of after school detention...

No, the scarlet nightie of shame would be returned to me at the end of the school year at the 7th Grade Graduation Ceremony! I would have to relive the shame not only in front of my classmates again, but in front of all of their parents and siblings, as well as the school staff in it's entirety !!!

OH MY GOD !!!!

Well, at least I got that out of the way early in the year, right? There certainly wasn't anything I could do to trump that Ace, so I spent the rest of my school days on my studies while my fellow classmates each fell prey to some kind of embarrassment to be revealed on graduation night.

One by one, stories of teenage angst and immaturity were revealed to an awe-struck crowd. When my turn came, and Mr. Cripe reveled in the story of the little girl with the red nightie, I steeled the courage to walk up there in front of all of my peers, with a bright and wide smile on my face, to claim my rightful property and take a bow!!! It was a moment of personal growth for me.

Here I am, receiving my 7th grade Graduation "Diploma" from our Principal Mr. Leigh. Look at that impressive Class of '80 .... all 15 of us!! This shot was taken while we all possessed some shred of dignity as the "Cripe Awards" had not yet taken place.
 You know... this picture would have been so much more appropriate had Mr. Leigh been just a little more to my left ... then there would be no need for a caption... the picture would speak for me and simply say "ASS of '80"

I learned an important lesson from this experience; one I didn't realize at the time, but one that serves me well to this day. Stuff happens... and if it's gonna happen, it will generally happen to me... SO, I might as well look at the humor in all things and learn to laugh at myself.
I'm glad I see things this way now, because life is just too short to take everything so seriously.... Thank you, Mr. Cripe.



and most of all, LAUGH

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