Monday, April 29, 2013

baby kleptomaniac

When I was around seven or eight years old I orchestrated a brief but successful crime spree. It is clear to me now (and probably was even clear to me at the time), that I was just trying to get my parents' attention. I remember snitching packs of gum or lifesavers from the supermarket, standing right next to my dad as he paid for our groceries. He didn't see it happen. I did it a few times. I probably asked him to buy me gum and he said no, so I not only filched a pack, but had to chew it when he wasn't around, so that he wouldn't find out. But the incident that stands out most strongly in my mind occurred at Woolworth's. Obviously not satisfied with pinching sweets, I was attracted, magpie-like, to something sparkly — some costume rhinestone earrings. They were for pierced ears, which I certainly didn't have, and my mom didn't have either.

Elizabeth Anne Periale, Mary Elizabeth Winship & Puddin', Wall Township, NJ

So what did I do with jewelry I couldn't wear? I put it on my large-scale bride doll (a birthday gift from my grandmother). Still no one seemed to notice. So one day I set myself up in front of my parents in the living room and started playing with the doll, waving her around, the earrings flashing in the sun. Finally my dad noticed and reacted. "Where did you get those?" I immediately became mum and must have looked very guilty. The truth must have spilled out (I don't remember how, exactly) as the next thing I remember we were on our way to Woolworth's. My furious father parked the car and told my mother to take me inside and make me confess my crime to the store manager. She took my hand and we walked in, me crying all the way. We walked around the store, circling the displays a few times. I stopped crying, not sure exactly where we were going. As we neared the jewelry counter my mom asked me to hand over the earrings. I gave them to her and she quickly tossed them in a basket with other costume jewelry. She pulled me away and said, "Come on." We walked quickly toward the exit, my anxiety easing. As we got in the car my dad asked her if she took care of it. She answered yes. "Did you learn your lesson?" I nodded. That was the day I learned how cool my mom was.
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