I stood there listening to the stern words of my father.
He had gathered us into our enclosed patio and had the look on his face that told us all that one of us did something wrong.
"Which one of you did this?" he asked with a sharp voice.
We all stared down at the floor containing the art of a child's handwriting in chalk. I suppose that had been a no-no for us, though I can't say I quite remember that part when I was committing this horrible crime.
I stood there, trembling on the inside and had hoped that no one else could see it. Will he know it was me? I secretly wondered. Scared, the only words that came from my mouth were, "Not me, dad."
The others denied it as well. Of course, we knew that one of us must have done it. But I, being the youngest and smallest of the three, just couldn't find the courage to tell the truth. It wasn't that I was a bad kid. Lying was not normal for me. But the look on my dad's face that evening sent a chill up and down my spine and somehow I couldn't bring myself to tell him.
He had a way about him when I was a child that made me afraid of him. But I loved him for it too, because it gave me my limits, my boundaries of what I could and could not do. I wanted to please him, of course. Maybe that's why I held back the truth that day. I was afraid of displeasing the one man I looked up to.
Without saying a word, he disappeared for only minutes and came back with a piece of paper and a pencil. He was so determined to find the culprit!
"I want each of you to write exactly what you see on the step." I was not a stupid kid, though and when my turn came, I deliberately wrote the words differently. So when my dad compared the handwriting, he still couldn't tell which one of us did it.
Frustrated, he stood a step above us and looked down at his three small kids.
"I'm going to give you one more chance to confess."
He continued to stand there for a few moments, but to me it only seemed like a second. Not surprisingly, neither my brother nor my sister spoke up. Why should they? I was the one who did it. Should I say something? Is it too late? He'll be mad! So again, frightened, I held my tongue.
"Well, if someone would have come forward when I asked, there would have been no punishment." Oh, no! I've lost my chance! "But now it's too late." Stupid, stupid, stupid! I should have confessed! Now I'm gonna get it!
He took us all in the house as tears welled up in my eyes.
"Since none of you seemed to have done it, then you all get a spanking." What?! Still, I stood there and said nothing. The last thing I wanted was a spanking!
"I did it," someone said and I was pretty sure it wasn't me.
I looked around to see my sister come forward. Huh? She did it? No, she didn't because I did. Why was she was taking the blame for something I did? Feeling guilty, yet still scared to 'fess up, I stood there knowing my sister was going to get spanked for something I did. And I let it happen. I didn't speak up.
We didn't talk about that day for many years. Not until we were all older and I knew it was safe to finally tell my dad it was really me. By that time, I had already figured out why my sister took the rap for it. She had become my protector, my worry-wort, my best friend. And because of that, she would have rather taken the pain herself than see me suffer.
We joke about it now - all of us, including my sister. And as I always felt guilty because of it, that was the last time I let anyone take the blame for me.
When I think back to that day, I know I learned the value of family, of a sister who would do anything for me. And I'm glad to say that I know now I would do the same for her.