Stolen Memories


Time for Mama Kat’s again. This week for our Writer’s Workshop I stole prompt #4.) You stole WHAT!?! Spill it! Okay I’ll give it back… I’m just borrowing it for my post.  I mean in my time I’ve stolen kisses, stolen boyfriends, stolen moments of time but as far as stealing material items?  That’s a whole ‘nother story.

When I was little we never really went much of anywhere other than neighbors houses or relatives houses. There were six of us so I am sure to take all six of us anywhere was WAY more trouble than it was worth to my poor beleaguered mother. When we got to go to an actual store it was a real treat for me. There were a couple of little country stores in our town where most our “shopping” for groceries was done and on rare occasion we would get to venture to one of the next towns to get groceries.

As much of an impact as the aftermath of this occurrence had on the rest of my childhood (who am I kidding… it still torments me! I can still feel my cheeks burning just thinking about it). I can’t remember whether I was with my aunt or mother when the dirty deed was done. I seem to have blanked that part out. I do remember that I had asked for a candy bar. Considering that we never made ends meet with six hungry children to feed in addition to my parents and all the neighborhood kids who seemed to find their way to our house at dinnertime, I knew the answer would almost certainly be no, but I asked anyway. Guess what the answer was? Yup. No, not that the answer was yup but yup, you guessed that the answer was no. Did I make that totally clear now? The answer was unequivocally NO.

I think I moped around and probably stomped the raw wood floor (which I can still see in my mind because the plan that formulated in my head at that moment seared those dark splintered wood planks into my mind) and maybe even cried a bit and then in a fit of insanity (it must have been insanity because I knew better) I stole the candy bar. I just slipped it right in my pocket and out to the car. I’m thinking I must have been with my aunt because I seem to remember being in the back seat of this beetle she had (or maybe it was my uncles that she drove sometimes). I don’t know where the rest of the kids were. I can’t imagine that my aunt would have taken only me to the store but maybe she did and maybe that’s why I was bold enough to take it because any other time it would have been the six kids in our family and the 4 of my aunt’s kids, so I guess I was with my aunt alone. Chances are that if any of the other kids were present someone would have ratted me out before we could get to the car… or blackmailed me out of the candy bar and then they would have been the ones caught with it so for some unknown reason I had to have been alone with my aunt.

Anyway, I remember trying to slink in the back seat of her car and surreptitiously eat the candy bar before we got home and had it taken away by one of the older children. I remember looking up and meeting my aunt’s eyes (Yeah, I guess it must have been my aunt) in the rear view mirror and the look of utter shame and disappointment in them as they locked on my chocolate smeared mouth and teeth. I felt so ashamed of myself and the fact that I had made her have that look in her eyes. Not to mention the fact that I KNEW there was no way she wasn’t going to tell my mother, or worse yet, my father.

I was more than certain that the telling was going to be followed by the beating and nothing was worse than the waiting for a beating. You remember how when you’d misbehave and your mother would say “Just wait til your father gets home!” That was the absolute worst. I’d rather take a beating right then and there than to wait. Even though I’d usually never “get it” when he got home the anticipation, nay…DREAD, was much worse than any punishment that he could have doled out.

True to form, when we arrived home my aunt told my mother and what happened next was worse than any beating I could have imagined. She marched me back to the store and made me ‘fess up to my crime in front of all the other patrons in the store and then apologize in front of everyone. That humiliation of everyone knowing I was a thief was far greater punishment than anything she could have doled out physically. And it left far deeper wounds and scars. Believe me, any time anyone tried to tempt me to take anything that wasn’t mine (up to this day) those feelings would come rushing back and stop me dead in my tracks. In fact, the fear of someone even thinking that I may have stolen something has spurred me to return things that have accidently been left in my cart even after I was safely in the confines of my car or even at home.

 I remember once I was at Walmart and I was going to buy batteries (among other items) and somehow the batteries slid underneath my purse and I didn’t realize it until I got out to my vehicle and was loading my purchases in my vehicle. I lifted my purse to put it in the car and saw the batteries underneath my purse and almost had heart failure. I put my purse right back down on top of the batteries and walked right back in to customer service and waited in the LONG line and showed the girl my receipt (to show I had NOT paid for the batteries) and then moved my purse and showed her how they had been under there and I hadn’t meant to walk out of the store without paying for them. She looked at me like I was crazy and then said “Well, what do you want me to do about it?” I told her I wanted to pay for them and she said “Why? You were already out in the parking lot… why didn’t you just leave?” I tried to explain to her it was because it would be dishonest and it would be stealing and she said “But you were in the clear. No one would have known!” I told her that I would have known and I couldn’t live with myself knowing I had done that. I practically had to force her to take the money.

So, that’s the only time I can think of that I purposely stole something. When I was about 5 or 6 years old and almost 50 years later, it still haunts me.


About pegbur7

South of the Mason/Dixon Line
This entry was posted in Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Stolen Memories

  1. Teri Smieja says:

    Great story, Peg! I had something similar happen at a gas station. Paid with my debit card and didn’t notice til I was at home that they didn’t charge me for something. I actually went back to the store, told them about it and paid. Hey, they may not have known, but I knew, and that’s what counts. Plus, I’m a mom – I could never do that and feel ok with it. Lead by example, right? 🙂

    • pegbur7 says:

      You’re exactly right. We have to set an example. I’d even do it if they weren’t with me just because I can’t keep something that isn’t mine…

  2. Dwight says:

    Peggy,you are the most honest person I have ever known. That is one of the many qualities that I love about you. That is why the girls are such great people,they had the perfect roll model! I am proud to be your husband! Love Dwight

  3. SuziCate says:

    You poor baby…what a lesson. I did that to oldest when he was about six or so and stole a couple of pieces of Brachs cand from the grocery store…yep, I think I scarred him for life, too. Better to be scarred than be a thief, right?!

  4. I was just enjoying your story, but feeling more and more guilty as your experience unfolded. All I could think was that I must have contributed in some way to Lyle’s Market going out of business in my neighborhood. I stole candy bars from them… a LOT. Then I got to your WalMart mention and that clenched it. You must have contributed in some way to WalMart’s world domination! I’m not sure which is worse. (Great post!)

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, I’m stopping by from Mama Kat’s! I love the fact that you returned the batteries, even though you could have just left with them. Your honesty is such a breath of fresh air!

  6. I guess your mom did the best thing she could do. It certainly left it’s “Don’t Steal” mark. When my husband was young, he stole a knife. He actually had it forever…till way after we were married. Turns out my friend’s son stole the knife from my husband. When it was discovered, my husband and friend’s son had quite the talk. It’s just crazy that this stolen item had been stolen again. Lessons learned by all involved!

  7. Ron says:

    ““But you were in the clear. No one would have known!” I told her that I would have known and I couldn’t live with myself knowing I had done that. I practically had to force her to take the money.”

    Aw….god love ya, my dear honest friend!

    Well, I have to admit…I too stole something once – from Grants department store. I once stole a leather wrist band, but when I got home I felt so guilty about it, that I dug a hole in my backyard and BURIED it.

    Aren’t I EVIL?

    Faaaaaaaaaaabulous story, Peg!


    • pegbur7 says:

      Hahaha you BURIED it? That is hilarious! I guess I could have buried my candy bar…. or course I’d have had to wait for it on the other end! LOL

  8. I most love the part about the batteries at Wal-mart. It’s amazing the lessons our parents can teach us when we are small. It’s still there! Seared on our brain. I once stole a quarter out of the coat closet in first grade. Really I just found it on the floor. But, my Mama made me take it back! I would never try that again!!

  9. Both of my kids did the same thing about the same age. Poor babies! But they did learn their lesson because neither of them is in jail!

  10. Jenners says:

    This just proves that shame is the greatest deterrent. I think I might have done the same with the batteries too.

    • pegbur7 says:

      It really is! I did the same thing with a pair of jeans that they charged me too little for, The girl tried to tell me to just take it because they’d just “write off the loss”…. I didn’t go for it!

  11. jenny says:

    I remember taking a piece of penny candy from the corner store and my dad marched me right back in there to apologize to the owner….I didn’t even get to eat it!! Even though it was only a penny, it taught me that same lesson and has stuck with me all these years.

  12. Um. This is small potatoes compared to my stealing stories that I’m, um, not quite ready to tell.

    I can absolutely relate to the batteries moment. I think my younger years have been a gift to the older me. They help inform my integrity. The whole “You were in the clear” comment from the customer service agent is enlightening.

    We’re never in the clear if we can’t look in the mirror.

  13. Upon reading, my “small potatoes” words make it sound like I’m belittling your experience. On the contrary, your writing has allowed me to look at something that is difficult for me.

    There is nothing small about that gift.

    I am merely commenting on the enormity of the shame I’ve wrestled. Shame always feels huge when it’s ours, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for the helps glimpsing inside.

    • pegbur7 says:

      I’m not sure how I helped but I am glad I did. Thanks so much for stopping by and I did not think you were belittling my experience. But thanks for apologizing for thinking you did. It says a lot about the (good) kind of person you are.

  14. terrepruitt says:

    Awww. You made me want to hug that little 5 or 6 year old.

    Now-a-days the attitude of the store clerk that you encountered makes me sad. People don’t seem to care about the right and the wrong and have any guilt. I was talking to someone about how much I don’t like self-check out and she was saying that many people have told her that they purposefully don’t scan some of the items. So they steal on purpose. It is sad. It is as if people don’t realize that stealing from the “big company” is really just stealing from themselves because the “big company” is NOT going to lose the money so they pass on the expense to ALL of us. Sad there are so few ethics and morals.

    I am sorry that you suffered so as child, but I am glad it helped you be the wonderful woman you are today. I think you did a terrific job of writing this. As I said, I felt so bad for that little girl.

  15. NikNik says:

    Did you do this to Either me or Sa-Bu when we were little? With letters from a message board?!? Or did i dream it?

    • pegbur7 says:

      I don’t remember the letters on the message board but I do remember when RL first opened in D’Vegas Sabu “accidently” took the silverware home in her pocket and I took her back and made her apologize! Guess I have to hand down those hard learned lessons…. did it work? 😉

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