My great escape

May 13, 2012 

Kit Colburn’s runaway adventure that captured the attention of a lot of Central Georgians reminded me of the time I left the school grounds while teachers were occupied watching 60 first graders flit about during recess.

Somewhere around 10 a.m. one morning in the cool fall of 1967, while my fellow class members at Joseph N. Neel Elementary School were climbing monkey bars, getting dizzy on a merry-go-round and running across the playground, I made a daring getaway.

I had a masterful plan that included a quick slide down the clay hillside that was several yards away from the teacher’s lookout post. It only took seconds for me to go undetected and in my mind’s eye I can see that playground disappear as I descended the steep embankment.

While “on the lam” I walked that 15 minutes very fast, then I ran, kicking rocks, jogging through yards, ditches and the nearby cemetery.

I suppose men were at the office and moms who did not work outside the home were plenty busy doing their house chores because I don’t recall passing anybody. Apparently, there wasn’t anyone around at the moment that thought it odd a 5-year-old was walking alone mid-morning on a school day.

Thirsty and out of breath, I arrived home, walked-up the driveway, climbed the back porch steps and through the screen door of our kitchen, I could see my mother as she tidied the house.

I knew when mom heard my side of the story as to why I left the school campus she would appreciate my struggles.

My narrative would include the idea that I needed to be away from the exhausting drills about colors and numbers, a brutal requirement to stay in school until 2 p.m. and “big boys and girls” were not allowed to take naps.

I would have to be honest with mom, though, and tell her there were a few exceptions to the grammar school grind. First, I did like my teacher, Mrs. Ruth Lockhart. She was pleasant and shared her phonographic records on occasion. Songs on the first-graders playlist included; “Funiculi, Funicula” and “Brahms’s Lullaby.” Second, there was my earliest school crush, Linda Fuerniss. She was blonde and missing one top front tooth.

As I entered the back door of our house prepped to give mom the lowdown on my getaway, the kitchen phone was ringing. As mom was turning to pick up the handle on the old rotary dial black wall phone she saw me. I heard these words, “Yes, he is here and we will be there in a few minutes.”

My mother, with her highly developed child rearing skills, (acquired because of three siblings ahead of me) took me to my bedroom. I knew I was in for it. Instead of a spanking she had me sit on my bed and inquired as to why I was home. I forgot all about the numerous diabolical reasons and blurted out, “I want to stay home.”

With a smile, she listened patiently and responded, “There will be days like this.” In essence, she was instructing me I had to make the best of them.

Mom took my hand and started to pray. She asked God to help me like school. Amen. (It must have worked. I never left school again, not like that anyway.)

Then came the words I did not want to hear, Mom told me that it had been Mrs. Wilcher, the school secretary on the phone and that the principal, Mr. Greenhaw, teachers and staff were worried about me and wanted me to come back.

Mom escorted me out to our family’s blue Chevrolet Malibu station wagon that was parked just outside the kitchen door. She drove me back to the school and Mr. Greenhaw walked me to my classroom and Mrs. Lockhart never made an issue of it.

Forty-five years later I am blessed and privileged to be able to hold that same hand and laugh about that great escape. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program and is a marketing consultant for NewTown Macon.

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