…Lucky those kids. How I envied them, of course, but for the wrong reasons. Would it not be neat to be able to stay at school for lunch, then fly outside to the playground and play until that afternoon bell sounded the afternoon alarm? Of course, and there were times when we could stay at school for lunch but those days were few and far between and were only allowed when lunch was sponsored by the Parent’s Teachers Association. We did have to pay for the privilege, a small stipend, for that other important food group of a lunch at school: two boiled hot dogs on white spongy hot dog buns; soda and a maple frosted donut or two, or three. Sugar, those were the days.
“Mom, can I go to Gerard O’Neill’s house to play after school?”
“Yes, but why the O’Neill’s? You hardly know them. Least of all Gerard”
So true. I can’t lie about that nor can I appear to be too enthusiastically inclined to go otherwise my Mom may become suspicious. These parents of ours seem to have a thick inner sense that something may not be quite right with us. Something may be amiss. No doubt she was right. She was always right.
“I don’t know Mom. We have become friends in the schoolyard. He asked me if I could help him out with some things at his house. He wants to show me some of his toys. He has a model train,” I lied, more black spots “set in his basement that he wants to show me.”
She looked at me somewhat inquisitively, then smiled.
“Okay, but be home by six”
That was it. Whew, Say no more. Chow down, slurp that soup down, then get the hell out of there and get back to the school yard. Done, home, and back to school in less than 45 minutes. I still had 30 minutes before the hand bell went. I scanned the schoolyard for any sign of Gerard. No luck. Perhaps he had not arrived as yet. But then, just as the bell began its incessant ring marshalling all of us like cattle to the slaughter like good little Catholic boys and girls, Gerard showed up. He looked at me from a distance. I gave him a thumb’s up gesture. He smiled, returned the salute and off we went to our afternoon classes…