When Grams was about eight years old, we lived for an entire year with my Granny in a little house deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas. When I say "deep in the Piney Woods" I mean deep. Granny lived on a red-dirt road that was way, way, way off the beaten path. A trip to town meant going 15-20 miles to Naples or Atlanta, both little bitty towns in the early 1960s. But every now and then we would make the 50-ish mile trek to the thriving metropolis of Texarkana. In 1960 Texarkana, Texas (it's a twin city ... there is also a Texarkana, Arkansas) had a population of 50,000.
For us, a trip to Texarkana was an outing to the big city. There were a few major department stores in the downtown area. It was years before there were shopping malls or even strip centers. I think there was a Sears Roebuck, J. C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward. But the one I remember most was a store called Belk-Jones. The unique thing about Belk-Jones was that it had something we had never seen before, an escalator. While we occasionally went to Belk-Jones, Mom rarely shopped there. Honestly, I think she took us to ride the escalator which gave her a little break of sorts. Remember, she was trying to keep up with six kids. But, truth be told, Mom did most of her shopping at Bill's Dollar Store.
Like today's ubiquitous dollar stores, Bill's Dollar Store carried a little bit of everything. Most of our school shoes and many of our clothes came from there. A whole lot of Mom's shopping time was spent there. If we behaved, we were rewarded with choosing a small piece of candy or, occasionally, a very small toy. I don't remember for sure, but I'm sure the price range would have been 25 cents to a dollar. Certainly nothing more expensive than that. Again, there were six kids and Dad was an automotive mechanic. We didn't have extra money to waste.
I don't remember having many longings for things I didn't have. The fact of the matter is that I grew up in an age before the rabid consumerism that kids deal with today. There was no cable television with a thousand channels constantly hawking their wares to children. We had a black-and-white television that used an antenna mounted outside on the roof. And we lived so far out in the country that we usually only got one station. The only kids' shows I remember are Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo, and Top Cat. And some of those we watched when we lived in town; we didn't get them out in the country.
|Romper Room image source|
But on one of our trips to Bill's Dollar Store in Texarkana, I fell in love with a little jewelry box that played music and had a magnetic ballerina that twirled on a mirror when you wound it up. More precisely, I fell in love with the tiny little ballerina with her tutu of pink tulle. I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything in my young life. I had to have it. I asked Mom to please buy it for me. She said no. I begged. She said no. I cajoled, I pleaded, I cried. I had to have that box, but most of all I had to have the beautiful tiny little plastic ballerina. But no matter how nicely I asked or how nastily I demanded the answer was an emphatic "no."
|Music box image source|
At this point, owing to the title of this post, you can probably guess what I did. That's right ... I stole it. Not the jewelry box, just the little plastic ballerina. I looked all around and found that not a soul was looking at me. I reached up and snatched that little ballerina off of her glass mirror and stuck her in the waistband of my shorts for the long ride home.
I was so proud of myself. I gloated secretly all the way home. I had my ballerina in spite of mother's denial. I would take her home and play with her to my heart's content. I had my coveted ballerina and she was mine ... all mine. This tiny toy was not community property, it was my very own and I wouldn't have to share it with my sisters. Then I got home and reality set in. Yes, I had my beautiful ballerina. She was mine but I couldn't play with her. You see, I shared a room with my three sisters. If I took her out and played with her, they would know that I had stolen her. And ... they would TELL! If you have sisters, you know the truth. There was no way that any of us could know something like that about any of the others without running straight to Mom to tattle. In fact, I couldn't even set her on top of the chest-of-drawers, where I knew she belonged, because then I would be found out.
So, what did I do? I hid her. I lifted the corner of my mattress and tucked her safely between the mattress and springs to stay until I could figure out what to do with her. There was only one problem with my plan, one small little consideration that I did not foresee. The next day was laundry day.
Early the next morning when my Granny stripped the sheets off the bed for their weekly washing, out fell my little ballerina at her feet. My heart stopped! But Granny just picked her up, tucked her into an apron pocket, and went on about her business without saying a word. I felt a huge sense of relief. Granny didn't know ... she didn't know I had stolen her. I had gotten away with it. Now all I had to do was wait until Granny took off her apron and I could recover my ballerina and I wouldn't even have to explain. I could tell my sisters that I got her from Granny and she would be mine with no questions asked. So, yes, I was willing to add lying to thieving if it would help me get my precious ballerina.
All day that day I thought I had gotten away with my little bit of larceny. WRONG! Sometime during the day, Granny took that ballerina to Mom who knew immediately where it came from, who brought it, and how it had been gotten. Then came bedtime.
When I went in to say goodnight, Mom had my ballerina in her hand. She confronted me and told me that she knew I had stolen it. She went on the tell me that such a crime would have to be reported to the store manager who would ultimately have to report it to the police. She further told me that we had to take it back and I would have to confess to the store manager. There was no sleeping that night. I tossed and turned all night long, imagining the worst possible outcome yet hoping that by morning all would be forgotten if not forgiven. But early the next morning, while Granny took care of all my siblings, Mom and I made an hour-long, silent drive all the way to Bill's Dollar Store. We went inside and I handed my beautiful ballerina to the store manager, told him that I had stolen it, and said I was very sorry.
In accordance with what my mother had said, he explained that he would have to call the police who would probably have to arrest me and take me to jail. I was terrified and completely silent as tears rolled down my cheeks. I don't know if my mother had called him ahead of time and asked him to play along with her or not, but he was very convincing. After he played his role for a while he decided that, since this was my first offense, he might be able to avoid calling the police if I promised to never steal anything again. I was happy to comply and very relieved.
Anyone who knew my mom would be able to tell you that silent was not her usual mode of operation. So, needless to say, the ride home was the farthest thing from silent. She let me have it every which way for the entire hour it took to drive home.
A couple of years later, some of my friends and I were in a Winn's 5 & 10 Cent Store in Corpus Christi. They all decided to steal some candy by tucking it into the waistbands of their shorts and walking out with it. I politely declined to participate and ran all the way home without them. I had learned my lesson.
This post was inspired by the writing prompt "You stole WHAT!?! Spill it" and is part of Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop.