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It was with the utmost humiliation that I went trudging into the high school’s principal’s office on the second of May with my mother behind me. After all, I was 16-years-old and only a month away from my 17th birthday.

I was not a criminal or even a bad person. The only other time I had a run in with the law was at the age of twelve. I had literally run into the backside of the town’s sheriff while riding my bicycle, unlawfully, on the sidewalk. I had put that mistake, and embarrassment, behind me. 

With my arms tucked tightly into my sides, I quickly slid into the nearest chair trying to be invisible, avoiding eyes, and hoping that none of my friends would be walking by the large glass window to see me in the principal’s office with my mother. There was only one consolation. Several other students were also in the office with a parent. That was the only saving grace. We had all been expelled and could only be readmitted by having a parent present.

The day before had been May Day — a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Our neighboring town of Oroville was having a May Day celebration with a Maypole dance in their city park, along with a mini school carnival. I had seen pictures of Scandinavian countries and their colorful Maypole dance and I wanted to go see it. My niece, Carolyn, was the May Day Princess and was to lead the May Day parade and dance. 

During lunch hour that day there were rumors going around that some kids were going to skip school that afternoon and go to Oroville. The idea sounded like it was calling to me. I had never seen a colorful Maypole dance. I started weighing the options — go back into the classroom on this beautiful spring day, thinking about the fun going on in Oroville, or skip school and deal with the consequences later. After all, wasn’t May Day to be celebrated?! My boyfriend, Duane, just happened to be there at lunch hour with his parent’s car.

I thought there was a chance my mother would give me permission if I asked, especially since her granddaughter was the Princess. However, there was also a small chance she may not. I didn’t want to risk “no,” so I decided I would deal with the consequences later and just go. I knew I was not the only one who would be in trouble at school. 

It was a joyful afternoon in Oroville, seeing all the kids with the colorful ribbons dancing around the Maypole, and I was so proud that my niece was honored to lead. I thoroughly enjoyed the sunny afternoon, even with the twinge of guilt that would come up from time to time.

The next morning at school, punishment was sure and quick. Those of us who were not in the classrooms the afternoon of May Day were called into the principal's office and expelled.

Sitting in the office with our parents, the no nonsense vice principal Mr. Alder lectured us on the subject of truancy and where it could lead, our parents agreeing with him of course. Our punishment for reinstatement was to stay after school for one week and sit in the principal’s office. I think we were given some menial tasks to do. Some of those in the group were top students and two or three were star basketball players. I'm sure that had something to do with a lighter punishment. 

As far as I know, not one of us ended up with a life of crime and all became good citizens, trying to instill in our own children the consequences of their actions.

It would be many decades later, when I was in my 60s, that I would be sitting on a grassy hillside somewhere in Sweden watching another Maypole dance and celebration, thoroughly enjoying the occasion, without a tinge of guilt and remembering a May Day of long ago.

Clara Sias

Clara began her writing career at 78 years old after taking a writing class at Judson Park

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