The first thing I ever stole was a teaching manual in 2nd grade. Our teacher, Mrs. Nadison, had an entire stack of them on the back shelf--and I coveted them. One day, after deciding that they looked old and unused (this may or may not have been true), I decided that they should be mine.
I calmly calculated my moves...and waited patiently. I waited...through the long morning... I waited ...until finally...I followed my class to the cafeteria for lunch...ate...went outside...and then snuck back in.
It was spring.
Everyone else was out on the playground. But inside, it was quiet, with dust-motes dancing golden between the legs of the desks and the hardwood floor. My wind-breaker made loud rustling sounds and, without feeling an inch of remorse, I carried the heavy, spiral bound books across the room. I moved quickly, but the dog-eared, over-sized pages barely fit into my backpack. My hands shook until the zipper was securely closed and I had returned outside. The dust continued to float in the empty, sun-filled classroom while Jesus hung tiredly from a cross next to a map of the world.
When I got home I kept the books in the third drawer of my dresser (come to think of it, I still have the same dresser). I would take them out occasionally and sneak them down to the shop. You see, growing up, I lived above a flower shop, and at night, while my dad bartended and my mom watched tv, I conducted class in the flower shop's back office. I had a chalk board and an easel to set it on. In the dim light of an old desk lamp, I taught writing. Sentences, actually. And with the manual--I felt like I had it all.
Long after second grade it dawned on me that maybe my teacher needed those books. But even when my friend, Noel, eventually ratted me out I never felt sorry for taking them. I think I got grounded, yelled at, lectured, and had to return them with an apology. It felt dramatic--but I didn't care because I wasn't sorry. I loved those books. I was fascinated by them. Those books held THE ANSWERS!!! (not that we were even studying the material).
Twenty years later I taught my first writing class. And I still don't regret it.
*More thievery here.