Last week I discussed what was going on in 1970, the year I graduated from high school. That got me doing a lot of reminiscing about what my life was like in high school. Memories came back that I have not thought about for a long time.
I had a strained relationship with my mother especially during my senior year. She was a very hard-working person who was really tied to the farm and housework. She always wanted me to do more to contribute to the family. I was more interested in my school activities and my social life. We constantly clashed about that. My mom developed the belief that I was very wild, immoral and out of control. I really think she thought I would get pregnant which was not close to reality as I wasn’t sexually active.
I relied on my restaurant job for spending money and also to save money for college. The job was very important to me and I prided myself in doing it well.
One morning during my senior year I got called out of my first hour Advanced Composition class by the high school principal. To my surprise, my boss Ken from the restaurant was there along with the junior high principal and the high school principal. Ken accused me of stealing cigarettes from the restaurant. I was dumbfounded. The night before at work a friend of mine who I will call Jay had come in to buy cigarettes for his dad, the junior high principal. Ken had walked by as I was handing two packs of cigarettes to Jay. Later my boss checked the cash register tape and found that I had not rung up the cigarettes. The next morning he called my mother and told her that I had stolen cigarettes and given them to a friend and that I would be fired. He then went to school, explained my crime to the h. s. principal and talked to Jay’s dad who confirmed that Jay had brought him two packs of cigarettes. My boss then convinced the principal that it was such a serious offense that the issue needed to be dealt with immediately.
So there I was, a 17-year-old girl being accused of petty theft. How intimidating I must have been because it took three men to deal with me. There was a very innocent explanation which fortunately I was allowed to provide. Jay had come in to get two packages of Old Gold cigarettes (is that even a brand?). Ken saw me grab two packs from the display case. But these were Old Gold non-filters and Jay’s dad smoked filter cigarettes. We did not have any Old Gold filters so my friend handed the packs back to me and left without anything. Yet his dad had confirmed that Jay had come home with cigarettes. They called Jay
out of class. He verified my explanation and told them he had gone elsewhere to purchase the cigarettes that he had ultimately brought home.
I think the men were relieved that I had not stolen anything. I was one of the good kids and they didn’t want to believe that of me. I, however, was furious. Because of the strained relationship with my mother, I was angry that my mother had already been informed of my alleged crime. I figured she was probably thinking that she knew I would get into that kind of trouble and I had just proven it. I demanded of Ken that he contact my mother and correct the false information. He assured me that he would.
It never occurred to me until much later that I should have been really furious with Ken for accusing me of something so readily and involving my mother and the two principals before even talking to me. I had worked for him for several years and I think I could fairly have expected some level of trust. He never did bring up the issue again, but I do recall that over the next several months he tried very hard to make it up to me.
When I got home that night, my mom also did not mention the incident. As a matter of fact, we never did talk about it.
Fortunately, after I left home for college and matured a little more, my relationship with my mother improved greatly. By the time of her death 25 years ago, I could not have asked for a better relationship. As I write this, I am struck by the fact that this seemingly relatively minor incident is something that I remember so vividly. I think this is a reflection of how I tried to live my life–which was to behave in such a way as to protect my honor. I am sure that for many people this incident may seem so minor as to be hardly worthy of mention. I have forgiven but clearly have not forgotten.
By the way, I recently became Facebook friends with Ken and his wife. Ken is now 84, retired but very active. Jay still lives in our hometown. His dad died from lung cancer when he was in his 60’s.