Apr 23, 2008

But I didn't MEAN to steal....

Thou shalt not steal. Exodus 20:15

I studied that for the first time when I was six years old. In Room 4 of the Education Building of our church. When I was six. I had to memorize it (along with the other nine commandments) when I was eight. I think it was part of the curriculum for all the eight-year-olds in our church, but I’ve always wondered if my mother put the teachers up to making the whole class learn it in an attempt to disguise her desperation to keep.her.daughter.from.stealing. Again.

Mom almost always took me with her when she went shopping for the family’s needs. This day at Brambleton Drug was no exception. In 1967 in Virginia, parents didn’t worry so much about their children wandering to another part of the store as a parent in 2008 would. She was on a hunt for a new shade of lipstick. It was serious business. She was happy for me to go somewhere else so she could concentrate.

I found my way to the front of the store. You know what I’m talking about. The Place. The Place that all kids love and every mother hates. The incredibly-tempting-explosion-of-unnecessary-but-colorful-crap at the check-out counter. And there it was. My temptation.

Learning about Zodiac signs was something I had recently experienced. I was intrigued because, hey, I’m a ram. I’m an Aries. So’s my daddy. I’m like my daddy!! Oh, wait. I was telling a story.

(Now I know that the Zodiac has no place in the Christian’s life, but at that time, it seemed cool.) There was a pretty little purple book just loaded with information on all things Aries. Purple AND about Aries? EVERYBODY knows purple is the bomb, so it must be manna from Heaven, I thought. (Aren’t you impressed that a five-year-old knew what manna from Heaven even is? I impress myself with that thought, but alas I know it doesn’t impress you because you know I didn’t know what it was way back then. Poetic license. Deal.)

Moving on....

That darling little book somehow found its way into the pocket of my coat. I figured if someone had gone to the trouble of displaying a purple Aries book at the eye level of a five-year-old, it was just MEANT to find residence in my pocket.

I went to find my momma. She met me coming up aisle two and took my hand as she said, "Ready to go, Sugar?" (My mom always called me "Sugar." Still does. ‘Cuz I’m sweet.) "Yes, ma’am," I said using my very best manners.

She placed all of the items from her basket on the conveyor belt at the cash register. The little clerk with crooked yellow teeth and a beehive hairdo said, "Is that ALL for you today?"

I had just been sucked into a scary fairy tale. The clerk would soon morph into a huge wolf with a big nose and lots of teeth with which to eat me alive. I’d never get to read my prized purple Aries book. I’d never be able to tell Daddy how much he and I had in common because our birthdays are so close together. I’d never see first grade.

Still, I remained silent.

Once outside the store, in the meekest voice I could muster, I asked my dear mother if she wanted to see what I had. Her face contorted into the likes of which I’d never seen and hope to never see again. "WHAT have you done? WHAT have you got?" she quizzed.

I slowly allowed the top of Purple Aries Book to peek out from the recesses of my pocket. With lightning speed, Mommy Dearest snatched it from my clutches, examined it carefully and demanded to know where I had gotten it. "In there," I said pointing to the store.

Her face turned a gorgeous shade of red that closely matched the color of her hair. Steam poured from her ears, and I thought about how cool it was that my mom could make like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. Her hands began to tremble, and she lowered herself to my level. Her eyes were locked on mine, and I could feel the heat.

"God doesn’t like it when we steal. Honey.... Sugar, you’ve just stolen this little book from the store. We didn’t pay for it, so it doesn’t belong to us. Do you understand?"

With huge tears falling over the spillway of my eyes, I nodded in understanding. "I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry." She hugged me to reassure me that she loved me, but then she said it. And I knew. She didn’t really love me at all. SHE had turned into the huge wolf with a big nose and lots of teeth. She took me by the ear hand and escorted me back into the store and over to the counter where the manager stood. He had on his wolf suit, too.

"Tell him what you did. Show him the book."

I swallowed my heart and then produced said book.

"Tell him what you did."

He stared at me. And waited.

And waited.

"TELL HIM what you did," the big bad wolf said authoritatively.

"I.... um..... I.... I.... have this."

"And did you pay for it?" he asked.

Staring at the floor, I shamefully shook my head.

"He can’t hear you," said the she-wolf.

"No, sir. I didn’t pay." And then the waterworks started. Again.

A lecturing duet began, but just like Charlie Brown’s teacher, all I heard was, "wah wah wah wah wah...." I’m sure their well-meaning instruction to this wayward little girl was spot on, but I could only focus on the fact that I was losing Purple Aries Book AND I was in big trouble. There was no time for any lesson learning.

Mercifully, it ended, and the wolfish momma led me to the car. "We’ll have to talk about this when your daddy gets home, but you’ll spend the afternoon in your room."

Great, I thought. At least in there I can’t STEAL anything.

You think I learned my lesson, don’t you? And you’d be right. If I were a good student. I’m not.

I stole.



Having been digging for my car key in the bottom of my purse for nearly two hours, I finally turned the black hole that is my purse upside down and dumped it out on the kitchen counter.

And I saw it.

The "do not disturb" sign from the Embassy Suites. There... on my counter... in my kitchen. From my purse.

I didn’t MEAN to steal, I really didn’t. But I DID steal. Somehow that little piece of plastic ended up stuck in with the papers from our hotel stay and made its way home with me.

(I keep looking over my shoulder, hoping the big bad wolf isn’t in hot pursuit.)

What have I learned from this experience? The little "do not disturb" sign is actually pretty clever and will really be funny on the door of my office.

Oh, and I should be ashamed of myself.

1 comment:

GoSuze! said...

I suspected you'd sinned somewhere in your good-girl past. I'm glad I know of a situation where you weren't at your best Jenny-ness. By the way, thanks for the link to explain "PURPLE". I'd always been confused about that. *rolls eyes*. Sheesh.