As I child, I had horrible judgment. Not cut-my-own-bangs kind of judgment or touch-the-hot-stovetop judgment but monumentally, grossly reckless judgment. I defecated in our backyard when it seemed too tedious to get the house key from under the geranium pot. I melted three-quarters of a pillar candle into our shag carpet. I hid sugar cookie dough in my dresser drawer for an entire year, blew my nose on a pair of extra-large women’s underwear in JCPenneys, and taught our doxie-poo to lick my pits when I sweated. When caught and punished, I never felt remorse. I actually felt wronged, convinced my parents were killjoys.

Then came the Saddle Shoe Incident.

My saddle shoes were something of a dream. Unlike their 1950s black-and-white counterparts, they were butter-soft and pointy-toed white leather with saddles made of mauve suede. I wore them every day for months, until the white was rubbed raw and the suede was the color of dirty dishwater.

But eventually, sadly, it came to pass: The sole of one shoe tore almost completely free. It flopped as I walked the two blocks home from my bus-stop. All the way, I worried over how I might save them—they couldn’t possibly be replaced!—and by the time I reached the door, I’d come up with the perfect solution.

The tip of the Super Glue bottle in our family’s junk drawer was a little shellacked over. I snipped it with scissors, causing the glue to gush forward as I shuttled it over to the shoe and applied enough glue to hold a trailer to the ground in a tornado. The glue also dripped onto my hands, and suddenly I could feel my index and middle fingers becoming one. Setting down the shoe, I ran to the sink and feverishly scrubbed. I could only get the glue to harden, not clean, and when I turned off the sink and returned to my project, I found it firmly stuck to the floor. I tugged and grunted and finally yanked so hard that the shoe came flying loose—bringing with it two half-dollar-sized chunks of our white kitchen tile.

I don’t know what clicked in that moment, but after years of reckless decisions for which I’d pretty much never felt real remorse, I all at once realized what a terrible thing I’d done. I ran about the house in a frenzy trying to find something to cover the holes. Ultimately, I settled on watercolor. Yes, watercolor. In tears, I wet and dabbed at the little oval tray of paint and tried to cover up the holes.

When my mom’s engine roared in the driveway, the holes were merely filled with translucent white puddles. I ran out to her sobbing, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I ruined the floor!” Considering the candlewax fiasco, this was hardly the first floor I’d wrecked, but for some reason, it was the first time I remember feeling real remorse for my foolishness. I understood that in trying to save something important to me, I’d ruined something important to my parents.

After surveying the scene of the crime, my mom hugged me into her legs, holding back laughter (I now know), and (she says) forgiving me immediately. Then she pulled out the trash from under the sink, and I lay the shoes on top of food scraps and junk mail. Everything was going to be okay. I’d been forgiven. And I would never shit in the yard again.

Jenny Fiore-Jensen, Madison, WI