Fast forward. It’s the perfect day for every five-year old’s favorite time at El Dorado Elementary School: recess. The sky is cloudless, deep blue. The playground right outside our classroom is all dirt since there’s really only one patch of grass in all of New Mexico. As a five-year old the playground is as big as a football field and the monkey bars are a mile long. I am determined to get all the way across them without falling, just to prove to my fellow kindergartners I am already a man ready for the army.
Halfway across the bars, I hear the teacher calling us in. “It hasn’t already been 15 minutes!” I scream to myself. Everyone else, fooled by the teacher's obvious, vicious lie, quickly runs toward her, each going inside for the next activity. I know better. I have more time. I need more time.
Then it begins.
“Andrew, it’s time to go inside,” the teacher yells. I’m the only one left.
“I’m not going inside,” I exclaim with pride now down off the bars, standing face toward her, arms tense at my side.
“Andrew, it’s really time to go inside,” she replies, challenging my right to still play.
“No. I’m not going inside” I say, calling her bluff.
With her arms crossed, head fuming, she tells me one final time, “Andrew, if you don’t come inside now I’m sending you to the principal’s office.”
I’m not used to this. I always get my way. This was new. What could I do but listen? “I can’t lose this battle” I thought. What can I do? Who does she think she is?
To this day what I did next doesn’t make sense to me for any five-year old, but it happened and I can’t take it back. I have to tell it like it is.
I stand there, defiant like a pit-bull unwilling to release the clench I have on my prey, and proceed to take my faux-leather belt off my little boy jeans. I folded it, end and buckle in hand raised over my head. My eyes stare her down. She knows my threat. Still, I faintly hear the Western music in the background and imagine the tumbleweeds bounce between us. Then, as if filled with a thousands lions, I roar in assumed triumph, “I’M NOT GOING INSIDE!!!!!!!!!”
My teacher doesn’t know what to do. Honestly, I don’t remember what happened immediately after that. Maybe I blacked out due to the sheer ecstasy of victory . However, the next thing I remember, I’m sitting in Principal Garcia’s office. Two images are vivid: his thick moustache and his even thicker paddle.
That was the first time I was disciplined by a man.
By His Grace.