By Thomas O'Connell
I wasnít there when it started.
I wasnít there in the beginning. I was invited to join later on. Enroll, enlist. I wasnít usually included in these sorts of things. It seemed like everyone was asked to join. I was invited too.
A boy in my class had started it, one of my fellow second graders with a vast knowledge of military history. A few kids, boys and girls, started making armbands; armbands with circles and a design in the center. When I was asked to join, they were pleased with how quickly I learned how to draw it correctly.
The boy who started it asked some of his friends from other classes to start their own groups. They caught on, but not like in our class. We had been the first; he had started it.
We each kept our armbands in our desks. At recess we would split into groups and practice marching. Others would draw pictures of planes, tanks, soldiers copied out of books borrowed from the library. We kept our secret from the teachers. They never knew about it. If they did, they didnít say anything.
I borrowed two garden poles from my mother; she used them to tie up her tomato plants. I stapled cardboard flags around them and kept them in my closet in case they were needed. My contribution.
When my mother found the poles she ripped the flags off and tore them in half. It seemed she didnít even want to use the poles in her garden anymore, like they were tainted.
Soon afterwards, our teacher had a talk with the class about what we had done. I donít know if my mother had anything to do with it. We drew no more armbands. Recess was given back to horses and cowboys and Indians and kickball. The boy who had started it all was taken to the principalís office for a private lecture. He returned to class two days later. I remember him all through high school. He was a model student. He led the cross-country track team to a second place finish in the state championship. He played the trombone.
Thomas O'Connell is a temporarily retired librarian living on the south shore of Massachusetts. His writing has appeared in Pennsylvania English, Prose Ax and Biff's Quarterly.