I live among thieves. My teenaged daughter, despite regularly commenting on the utter hopelessness of my “old lady” wardrobe, sneaks into my dressing room and pilfers mascara, face cream, and hair accessories. Don’t even get me started on the criminal behavior that she exhibits now that she wears my shoe size.
My middle school son isn’t quite as bad, only occasionally giving in to his baser instincts to filch a few choice pieces of his little sister’s candy hoard. At least he has the decency to show remorse when caught in the act.
Alas, even my baby Clementine’s deceptively innocent looks disguise a pickpocket. Fortunately, most of the items she nicks happen to be scraps of paper, toilet tissue rolls, the odd penny, springs from broken ink pens, and random Lego pieces. She stashes these items away in hidey-holes, like the little pack rat she is, only to forget the locations of her various hoards. Her father reminds her with a loud bellow when he steps on a pile of sharp objects in a corner, so she never fails to be reunited with her treasures eventually.
I don’t know why I should be surprised that I’m raising a brood of delinquents. After all, they come by it naturally. Although I’m now reformed after years of rehabilitation, I started my own life of crime when I was quite young. At the age of four, I casually grabbed a grape from the produce display at our local grocery store and popped it into my mouth. On the way home, the guilt got the better of me, and I confessed in a blubbering display of self-reproach worthy of the most depraved offender.
My mother, shocked and ashamed that her offspring was already exhibiting such degenerate behavior, turned the car around and headed back to the store. Once there, she gave me a penny and told me to place it in the produce section in the precise location of the missing grape. I did so, but I never quite recovered from my first foray into delinquency.
In fact, having become desensitized to sin, I committed another larceny, this one much more severe, a few years later. My family had gone to visit the neighbors. Much to our delight, my sister and I discovered that this family had children close to our own age. We were farm kids, so we did not often play with other children, and the opportunity to interact with the two boys was a rare treat.
I was completely star-struck when I saw the toys these boys owned. They had everything, including -- and this particular item left me ecstatically breathless -- a used cigarette lighter. My parents were not smokers, so I had never seen the magic, the utter miracle, of the little cartridges that emitted, in the case of this empty lighter, a tiny spark. The other child was a bit possessive of his treasure, more so when he figured out that I was nearly out of my mind with desire. Had I known the definition of the word “covet” at that age, I would’ve been aware that I was breaking the Tenth Commandment. And I was about to brazenly break the seventh as well.
I feigned a complete lack of interest in the lighter, a form of childhood reverse psychology I had already perfected when relating to my younger sister. It wasn’t hard, considering that these overindulged children had piles of other fabulous toys, including a tangled Slinky, broken Tinkertoys, a knob-less Etch-a-Sketch, and a collection of rusty Tonka trucks.
Once my diversion had taken effect, I surreptitiously sat on the lighter. My parents perceived my sudden lack of activity as sleepiness, and shortly, we left. Upon entering the dark interior of our car, my smooth criminal façade cracked like the screen of that knob-less Etch-a-Sketch. Giddily, I began flicking the lighter, which naturally blew my cover. My indiscretion led to the years of rehabilitation I mentioned earlier, and my life among the criminal element ended, though I never did master my tendency to covet my neighbor’s goods.
So, I do take some responsibility for my children’s penchant for thievery. However, I have never, not even once, had my Miranda Rights read to me. My husband Joel, on the hand? That’s another story.
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