This story, among a list of others, is legendary in my family. Each of us six siblings have quite a bit of “epic” tales of our misfortunes or victories. When you have six kids and raise them the way we were you are bound to have stories coming out of your ears. Matt has learned this from his time in my family. When we all gather for family dinner, or what have you, we all go back and forth with funny stories about one another. Most of the time our cackles and screeching laughs will echo late into the night.
This particular story is one from my childhood. This tells a tale of greed, crime, remorse, and fright. I was quite young; my teeth were still being bought from the tooth fairy, and Santa still came to bring me presents. I still remember exactly what I was wearing: jeans, and a red hoodie/sweater. I remember the sweater because it was my accessory to the crime.
Six kids all piled into a black minivan. People around town would affectionately call it “The Bus.” I still have people tell me they were astounded by well-behaved we all were. I just smile and think inwardly about how rambunctious we are now. That’s the thing about being one of six. You don’t think so much in the “I” tense, but more often as “we”. Our parents nurtured our individuality, but that is what happens when you have six people so close to each other in age, as well as, in spirit. The years have torn us apart, and we have stitched ourselves back together.
Anyways, as I was saying, six kids piled into a black minivan on the way back from our Grandmother’s house. I believe Atticus was driving his truck back. I just remember he wasn’t in the van with us. Meryl had to stop to get gas, and I had to pee.
While I was in the small little country gas station, walking back to the confines of the minivan, my eye was caught by a shiny reflection. I looked in the direction from the light and my childlike eyes grew with anticipation, my mouth watered, and I heard my little belly protesting with hunger. I found myself in the candy isle. Candy, as many people are aware, are children’s kryptonite.
I, the ever behaved child, asked Meryl for a piece of candy, turning my big green eyes framed with black lush lashes upon her mercy.
“No.” She said to me with the firm tone a veteran mother acquires over time. What else she said to me, time has made less certain. What I remember distinctly was wanting candy, and being told no.
I had never in my young years attempted anything so daring as stealing candy from a store. I waged an internal war within myself of what to do, and what consequences could I suffer? The rumblings in my stomach added protestations to leaving empty-handed. My mother was checking out and I had to act quickly. I thought no more. I put my hood up, or maybe I was already wearing it, dipped down and grabbed a handful of the first thing I could.
I walked out to the car. Blood pumping furiously. Excitement and fear rushed through my veins. I hopped into the very back seat and gobbled down the mint chocolate. I am laughing now as I type this because I remember just how fast my satisfaction turned into fear and regret.
Instead of adrenaline, I was awash with shame and remorse. I knew I had done something very bad, even though I didn’t know just how bad. I sat in the back row tucked low with the evidence of my grab balled up in my pockets. My mother was able to drive a couple of miles before she heard my young voice addressing her from the back seat. Turning down the radio everyone was listening to, she asked me to repeat myself.
I asked her what would happen if someone stole from a store…what would happen to them? Effortlessly she told me of how they would be arrested by the police and thrown into jail.
I sank back into my seat trembling with fear. My stomach, which had been party to making me steal, was turning on me. It was as if it wanted to upturn the evidence of my sins from its depths, and be party to the crime no more. When she asked me why I asked, I started to cry.
From the back seat of the van I confessed my sin to her, as I would to a priest. I remember her being very angry with me, and my other siblings reveling in the fact that I had committed a crime and was the one who was in trouble. In particular my oldest sister, Kate, took particular joy in my predicament. Our relationship was very tenuous and we each loved to watch as the other was in trouble. I remember her taunting me that night, as I climbed in my bunk bed in my pajamas, that the cops would be coming for me and I would be locked away in jail.
I lay in bed that night waiting for the sounds of stomping booted feet, the barking of dogs on my trail, and my parents coming to get me telling me I had to go to jail. I felt as unsafe as a child criminal could. Any time we visited my Grandmother after that for years to come, I would wonder if the police were still looking for me.
Obviously, nothing ever happened. The police, even in such a small town, have much bigger things to worry about than a young hungry girl pocketing some candy. I tortured myself for a long time after that anyways. I did the crime, and trust me I did the time. I was harder with myself than any cop probably would have been. They probably would have scolded me, at my parents bidding, and my parents would’ve paid for the candy, and then they would have walked back to their car hiding the smiles.
I vowed to myself that night, as I lay in wait, that I would never again steal from an establishment.
That, however, as a daughter of a lawyer after all, left plenty of wiggle room for the toys of my siblings.