Reub's journey

11 February 2012


An unplanned conversation with a pack of 13-year-olds:

Me, saying something random that popped into my head: I challenge you to remember something that you did when you were one year old! 

J, loudly: I stole candy while I was sitting in the grocery cart and my mother wasn't looking!

Me: You were a terrible baby. Did you get away with it?

J, laughing: She didn't see me! But then she turned around and I had a fistful of candy!

L., chipping in: I stole candy too! When I was older. But then I threw it all away.

Me: That's like me. In my whole life the only thing I ever stole was a pack of gum when I was 5 years old.

****It gets quiet in the room...the teacher stole something?****

Me: I was only 5 years old! (holding my hand just above waist height.)

D, creating a welcome diversion: You were a huge 5 year-old! That's almost as big as me!

Me: Stand up. See? Not as tall as you. 

Them, back on-task: You stole gum? What did you do? Who were you with?

Me: I was with my mother, who was distracted at the cash register. I can still see it, the slanting rack, with rows of Juicy Fruit gum, right at my eye level. The packs were yellow. 

L, interrupting: With blue words... 

Me: It was easy. I reached up and took a pack, and put it in my pocket. I will never ever forget that moment. Nobody else noticed.

******Quiet room******

Me, continuing: The next day I went to kindergarten, which was maybe 3 hours long. I got on the school bus to go home, and walked waaaay to the back, with the bad kids, to sit down. I took the pack of gum out of my pocket. I opened it up and inhaled its fragrance. Then I quickly gave it all away, every piece. I was like Robin Hood, sharing the wealth, right? But I never told my parents and I never forgot what I did.

G., loudly: FIFTY YEARS LATER, and you still haven't told your parents?

*******Collective gasp and giggles, as students tell G that "FIFTY" is way off and insulting.******

Me (laughing hard b/c I'm 62 years old): That's right! SEVENTY years later and I haven't said a word! And I haven't forgotten what I did.

Them, moving on: But you told us?

Me: Yes. Of course I have told you! Now let's get to work.

15 minutes later: The quietest, shyest boy in the class comes up to me and says in a soft voice: You should paint a picture of it, that rack of gum...

******You know, maybe some day I will.******


  1. I think that, to make your painting interesting (I meant to say, "even more interesting"), you might want to portray yourself cartoon-style with the gum in one hand and a blazing .45 in the other. Maybe a runny nose and some pink, droopy pants would help suggest the tension of the moment.

  2. P.S. I loved your account of your conversation. It wasn't like either of them, but it put me in mind of Art Linkletter and Bill Crosby.

  3. Snow: oh man, let's make a movie! That's ME up there, insanely waving a weapon and demanding gum!
    Thanks for the compliment. It's all true, though, and I can't take credit for making it up.

  4. Cute!
    The "stealing conversation" happened at our house when our daughter brought home a hair clip that wasn't hers.
    "You know how we practice our manners so that we will have good habits for the rest of our life?"
    "Well you have to practice being honest as well, so that you don't end up in jail"

  5. I stole gum too. A little pack of mini Chicklets. Way back when I was very little...maybe 5 yrs. We used to walk about a mile or so to shop as my mom didn't drive. I wanted Chicklets and she said no. So I took them. She noticed while we were walking home. We had to turn around and walk all the way back to the store to apologize and return them. Never did it again!

  6. i loved this! :) the hush in the room was palpable! :)

    i took a blue sugar-coated gumball off a country-store rack when i was also about 4 or 5. stuck it in my winter coat pocket. chewed it later with lint stuck to it. confessed to my older brother who convinced me i could go to hell. never wanted to steal again (well, except for office supplies from work...) :)

  7. And now you've told the whole world, Kerry!

    I smiled as I read this account, but also thought how lucky your students are to have a teacher that demonstrates that he/she is fallable.

    You also taught them that, though we go on to be great and good people, the guilt from dishonesty can last a lifetime.

    Some of the best lessons we learn from our teachers have nothing to do with the subject matter they teach! (A Warhol-esque pack of Juicy Fruit gum DOES sound good, though.)

  8. ER: I've practiced being honest ever since the gum incident!

    Rebecca: I never did it again, and I didn't even get caught. Oh, the agony of getting caught, oh the badness of keeping-it-secret.

    twg: Hilarious that you remember the lint! Gosh what is it with 4-5 year olds? Little thieves, all.

    Jo: Haha! Well really only the half dozen or so people who read E&R! But you're right, potentially the whole world.

    Oh how well they know I'm fallable. I prove it on a weekly basis.

  9. I think even I would love your kids, and I don't madly like children.
    Tell them they're adorable, I said so.

  10. Friko, Trust your instincts! These kids are not always as adorable as they are here, believe me. But I do love them most of the time.

    Chrystal, Hiiiiii! Thank you. You should bring The House of Variety back to life.


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