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The Not-So Smooth Criminal

I must make a confession. It is one that may not be so popular with certain people, but it must be said. I am and will always be a huge Michael Jackson fan. Yes, in my younger days I was obsessed with the King of Pop and was known to “be-bop” around my neighbourhood with my no-name Walkman listening to his Thriller album. My Dad listened to pretty much anything (other than Country) and his musical tastes were spot on, or at least I thought so. We would bond over any new albums that he would purchase from the likes of Whitney Houston, MJ, or Madonna. Whatever he was listening to, I would try to learn all the lyrics so I could sing along with him. I was and still am a total Daddy’s Girl. It was kind of our thing.


It was around this time in my life that according to the religion I was brought up in, that I had reached the “age of accountability” or 8 years old. This meant that I was not only going to be baptized and pretty much given a clean slate, but that on the flip side I would now be accountable for my many sins. Although, to be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine what exactly I would have done that I would have needed much of a clean slate. Yet, as a good and faithful member of my congregation and mostly because it was what was expected of me, I was baptized at the age of 8 and thus, a sinner was reborn.


Of course, at the age of 8 years old I can’t remember being totally concerned with any potential sins I would commit as I had limited experience in anything outside the realm of home, school, or church. Little did I know that a mere 8 months after my being cleansed of my sins, that I would become a criminal…


It was May 1987, and I had joined my first softball league. My older brother had been playing baseball for a couple of years and I felt that I needed to keep up with him or at least prevent him from getting all the positive attention. (Yes, back then I was a jealous little sister who for some reason always had to make everything a competition between us).


It was the day of our first game and my friend Meg, and I were hanging out in the neighbourhood and found ourselves wandering around the local drug store. I can’t say that we went into the store intent on committing our first act of crime, but it happened. I remember Meg and I goofing off one second and the next Meg had grabbed a piece of Double Bubble gum and shoved it in her pocket. I saw her do it and I didn’t say anything. She gave me a look that said, “let’s get out of here” and we both ran out the doors trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. (Or as inconspicuous as two 8-year-old girls can be.)


It was at this moment that we heard a woman’s voice behind us saying “Excuse me girls, stop there. Can you please come here?” In hindsight, I can’t imagine why we didn’t just keep running and let the lady try to catch us (she was old in our eyes and we totally could have outrun her), but we didn’t. We stopped and turned around and went back towards the woman, it was as if we were being drawn in by a tractor beam from the Deathstar.


When we stood in front of the woman, she told Meg to empty her pockets and being the good obedient children we were, Meg emptied her pockets Infront of this lady, letting the piece of Double Bubble fall to the ground. BUSTED! We both stood there looking at her, looking at each other and looking down at our feet and the evidence laid before us. We were criminals.


At this point the woman told us we needed to follow her back into the store and led us straight to the backroom, where she asked us for our phone numbers. She said she had to call the police and our parents. OMG!! It was at this point that I started to panic. No way in heck did I want my mom or dad to find out, but what could I do? So, we gave them our phone numbers and sat in the backroom at the local drug store waiting for our parents and the police to arrive. I can’t remember if it was at this point that we started crying, but I am pretty sure we were no longer giggling.


What felt like a lifetime passed (it was about 10 minutes) before the police arrived and stood before us looking all stern and incredibly scary. They told us they had spoken to our parents and that we were to go with them to the police station where our parents would have to pick us up later. Little did we know that our parents and the police had a plan to scare the shit out of us….and they did!


They escorted us both into the back of a police van and told us we were not allowed to talk, so we didn’t. We sat quietly in the back of the van bawling our eyes out all the way to the police station. They then took us into the building, fingerprinted us and then we were separated and placed in interrogation rooms to wait. I must have sat there for a good hour shaking, crying, and waiting for someone to come in and say something.


Eventually, one of the “arresting” officers came in and told me that my parents were there, and I could leave. Relieved, I practically skipped out of the interrogation room and ran straight into my Grandpa W. (*I should note that my dad worked evenings and my mom was operating a Day Home at this time and was not able to leave to come and get me so she had sent her dad, my grandpa to pick up his beloved criminal granddaughter*) Now, anyone who has ever met my Grandpa W would say he is a good man. A kind man. A quiet man. In the 40 plus years that I have known this incredible man, I don’t think I have ever heard him yell. Not at me. Not even when I would pick the carrots from his garden way too early and then shove them back into the soil, pretending I didn’t pull them out in the first place.


For me, this was quite possibly one of the most horrifying moments of my life. I would never ever want my Grandpa W to be disappointed in me. That would be unbearable, yet here he was, picking me up at the police station for shoplifting a piece of bubble gum with my friend. Could I just crawl into a hole and die?! Nope, it got worse…


Grandpa W took me outside and opened the backdoor, telling me to get in and then I saw her…my Aunt Kathy! My Aunty Kathy is my mom’s youngest sister and at this point in my life she was to me, the epitome of cool. (BTW, she is still very awesome) She is almost 10 years older than me, and I would follow her around like a little shadow for at least the first decade of my life. She always had the coolest clothes and hair and would let me dress up in her things and prance around. She basically was a Goddess in my eyes and when I saw her sitting there in the car my heart sank. Not only did my Grandpa W now know I was a criminal, but my aunt and idol was there to witness my journey into the depths of my self-made-Hell. I was mortified!


Looking back, I can only imagine how much self-control it would have taken for my aunt not to be crying tears of laughter at this point. I don’t know how she did it. She was what, 17 years old and was at a police station picking up her niece?! I know that I would not have kept it together and would have been laughing my ass off if the roles were reversed. Yet, she stayed composed, or at least from what I could see, and they drove me home in silence.


I won’t bore you with the details of my mom’s disappointment or the fact that I missed my first softball game that night and was instead forced to go to my brother’s baseball game. That was punishment enough. I will tell you though, that the worst was yet to come…


My Dad worked nights and as such, I did not see him that night, nor did I see him the next morning before I left for school. Phew! Maybe he wasn’t upset with me? Maybe he understood that it wasn’t my fault…Meg stole the gum, so I really wasn’t to blame, right?! WRONG! I walked home from school as it was lunchtime and I entered the house, noting there was no one around and it was very quiet. This was not the usual chaos I was used to in a home with 4 other siblings. Something was off…and then I made my way to the kitchen. Standing there, just around the corner was my dad, arms folded and looking at me with a look I had never seen before, disappointment. I felt sick. I had let him down. To me, there was no lower I could sink. I had disappointed and hurt my dad. So far, this was far worse than anything I had ever done before. Did he yell at me? Yes. Did I get grounded? Yes. Did I deserve it? Hell, yes!


Have I ever stolen, cheated or intentionally committed a criminal act since then? No. I know I make it sound funny in some ways and as I sit here writing it all down, it is quite silly in a “I was young and stupid” type way. But I have never forgotten those feelings of shame and the knowledge that I had hurt and disappointed someone I loved. Do I think that our parents and the police went a little too far with the arrest, putting us in a van and then an interrogation room? Maybe, but man did it work!


I can happily say that when I think back on this story I do laugh and shake my head. And I wonder what it must be like to not have anyone to disappoint? Not to have someone who cares that much? I’m grateful that I have had parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who love me and who care...even when I need a lift home from the police station.


Much love.

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