When I was I high school I stole signs. I am not sure why, but I thought that having lots of signs was cool. My room was decorated with random street signs, stop signs, yield signs, no parking /trespassing/smoking/swimming/nudity. My closet door sported the sign for the faculty room at St. Monica’s; my desk featured the desk nameplate of our Dean, Brother Ignatius. Some people collected rocks or coins. My gig was signs. Some were too funny not to confiscate: “Family Planning: use rear entrance”. Others, more topical: “Please clean balls before returning” (bowling alley)….you get the idea…sophomore boy humor.
It never occurred to me that taking a stop sign could kill someone. Yet, I was 15 and lots of things never occurred to me. My question today is what my parents were thinking. Never once did either of my parents sit me down and ask where the hell I got these signs. They had to have noticed. They surely knew that my closet could not be both a Ladies Room, a Faculty Room, and have entrance restricted to employees only. Maybe they were going to bring it up, but were dissuaded by the large Yield sign above my dresser. Looking back, I am still a bit confused about my general lack of supervision. I know that my parents loved me and every-so-often they would let me have my comeuppance for one egregious crime or another ( I did not get a driver’s license until I was 17 as a punishment for stealing my father’s car at 15.) But generally, if I was home by sun-up, there were few questions. The deal seemed to be that I would maintain decent grades, keep a part-time job, give ½ my paycheck to my mother (it was an Irish thing) and make it to mass on Sunday morning and, for their part, they would not ask questions.
When I think back on my early years, I am often stunned at the level of my oblivion. While I was certainly tuned in to some things, I now wince at all that I absolutely missed. Perhaps my parents were much the same: simultaneously on-the-ball and out-to-lunch. I left home at 18 and was living in Reno or in the Air Force when my parents packed up and moved from the house I knew. I always regretted that they did not save my books, notebooks, sketchpads, or any of the detritus of my youth that I could perhaps one day use to brag to my kids that I once made the honor role or won the league or such. I wonder where it all went. But what I really wonder, is, when they eventually cleaned out my room, what they did with all of those damned signs.