When I was six years old, I was caught stealing from a Christian bookstore. Twice.
I don’t remember what I stole, or why I thought I needed it so badly, but I do remember my brother telling my parents when I showed him both times. Both times at the Burger King across the street — we never made it far.
It is difficult to imagine what emotions were running through my parents’, both pastors who frequented the Christian bookstore, heads at the time. Was it worry that they were seeing a glimpse of my possible future life of crime? Maybe it was concern that I had a bad taste in what I stole? Or was it simply embarrassment over the impulsive behavior of their child, which ultimately reflected on them.
Whatever it was, I am sure it quickly turned to horror when the store owner said he wouldn’t call the police (after all, I did apologize with real tears), but asked my parents not to bring me back to the store. A lifetime ban from the Christian bookstore, was certainly not something that would suggest “model citizen” going forward.
In fact, I’m not entirely sure where “stealing from a Christian bookstore” ranks on the hierarchy of sin list, but I am certain having “repeat offender” after your name sends you up even higher.
I share this story not because it was the gateway to my more complex criminal activity, but because it seems to be something that I have passed on to my daughter.
Shortly after my daughter’s first birthday, my husband had to travel to Minnesota for work. Intrigued by the Mall of America, my daughter and I tagged along. We would spend our days walking around the mall while my husband worked nearby. I spent a considerable amount of time in the Christmas Shop trying to decide if my grandmother would like a snow globe I saw. We kept circling back, my daughter wrapped in a blanket in her stroller. Finally, after exchanging several texts with my mother, I decided to purchase the snow globe. We were cutting it dangerously close to nap time and if we didn’t get back to the hotel soon, my daughter would skip her nap altogether. No one wanted that to happen.
We rushed back and I put her down for a nap. (I may have even taken a nap myself.). When she awoke, I prepared for her bath, and that was when I noticed it.
At first, I saw the grotesque shape of her foot and feared the worst: Somehow she broke her foot while we were out and I hadn’t noticed. Guilt washed over me and my heart began to pound. I gingerly poked at her foot and she didn’t seem to mind. Relieved, but confused, I gently rolled her sock down and that is when I saw it: A tiny “Christmas Pickle” ornament shoved into her sock. My one-year-old had committed her first official crime. I laughed and dangled it above her head as she swatted at it.
At that moment, I saw a glimpse into my parent’s hearts that day in 1986. I am sure we shared the same fears about the future, questions about taste, and slight embarrassment. I also think we shared the same sense of humor about the situation. However, unlike my parents, I didn’t take her to return the $3 ornament. Instead, I have chosen to add the pickle to our family Christmas decorations. Telling my daughter the story of how we came to own it will be one of our Christmas traditions. But beyond that, I look forward to laughing with her about my own brush with crime at a young age.