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Oops!

By Alice MacDonald

Created as a part of the Aging Resource Center memoir-writing class.

Whatsoever things are true
Whatsoever things are honest
Whatsoever things are just
Whatsoever things are pure
Whatsoever things are lovely
Whatsoever things are of good report
If there be any virtue
If there be any praise
Think on these things. Phil. 4:8

These were the words on the beams over the study hall/Chapel at St. Margaret's School. Because the school was associated with the Episcopal Church, we had Chapel first thing every morning. My freshman class was at the end of the line of students marching into Chapel. Freshmen marched in single file to the back of the Chapel, while the upperclassmen went double file into the front of the room. Whenever an upperclassmen needed a partner, the cry would go out for a freshman to fill the spot. I led the freshmen through a back door while the others went through a double door to the front.

One morning a cry went up for “freshman!” I heard “freshmen,” and started forward... alone. They wanted one freshman to fill a spot where eight students from the glee club sat together to help lead the singing. The chapel service went fine until the announcements at the end. When the Silhouettes were called, the seven choir members I sat with stood up, and I stood up with them. I walked up front with them. When they started singing Christmas songs, I pretended I was singing too, mouthing the words, but not making a sound. After a while I started looking around and noticed nobody was staring at me. Maybe I could get away with this!

Then the leader of the Silhouettes noticed me and said, “What are you doing here?” I was invited to sit down on the steps, but for some reason I did not. The Sils sang, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!” which I had never heard before and didn't know. I kind of fumbled through it. Now all eyes were riveted on me. Somehow we finished and I made it back to my seat. I looked up and Miss Fairbanks, the headmistress was looking right at me from the stage where I had just been. Later I heard that she thought I had a lot of poise. I would not have put it that way.

I have never been very good at defending myself against false accusations. Old South Singles from Old South Church in Boston used to have work weekends where we opened or closed a church camp in New Hampshire. After dinner we would all have a few beers and socialize. Everything was fine until one year the camp got a new Camp Director. Larry H. was appalled when he came into the infirmary where we were staying and he saw a pyramid of beer cans on the mantle of the stone fireplace. He laid down the law – no drinking on campgrounds!

Our group was going to drink and we were going to do it on the campgrounds. The alternative was to drive to a bar somewhere and drive back drunk. I was hesitant to bring any beer the next time we went to camp, but I bought and shared a six-pack with my passenger. When everyone else put their beer in the new infirmary refrigerator, I left ours in my car in a brown paper bag. My passenger had one of her beers Friday night, and I abstained. Everybody else was drinking. I suppose I could have been the designated driver to and from a bar somewhere, but I could only really fit three other people in my Volkswagen bug.

Saturday morning Larry saw the paper bag in my car and retrieved it, took it into the kitchen, and asked our cook, Stan, who drove the blue bug. He had a few choice words about drinking on campgrounds, and left the beer with Stan who told me about it later.

I sat near Larry at lunch that day, and the beer was never mentioned. When he asked for a volunteer to sew some kneepads on some pants, I volunteered. He ignored me.

We all replay scenes like this, thinking, “I would 'a, could 'a, should 'a” done this or that. I should have pulled out the five beers, given the two to my passenger, and set three at my place at lunch and left them there. I would have said to Larry, “Just because I have beer, it doesn’t mean I drank any.” I could have asked him what he was doing in my car. A brown paper bag may have contained something more personal and private. If I told him what that might have been (feminine products come to mind), maybe I could have embarrassed him a little. I didn't say or do any of those things. Larry didn't get anyone from our group to sew on the kneepads. I did enjoy some beer that night with the rest of our group.

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