I'm just kicking things off, so I decided to dust off some of my older writings, that I truly love, and thought I'd share them here while I'm preparing new blog content. Originally posted December 2014 on thedivinequest.com.
A soft, pink cylinder of happiness wrapped in crinkly, bright yellow waxed paper. So chewy, so rubbery, so yummy, so sweet! Granted, I was only four at the time, but I’d never wanted anything so much in my short life. My fingers itched to touch it. My mouth watered in anticipation. It wasn’t just chewing on a piece of Double Bubble which stirred my desire, but even at that tender age I had a budding work ethic. You see, my brother had recently taught me how to blow a bubble, and I never lost an opportunity to hone my newly acquired skill. In fact, the girl down the block could blow a bubble within a bubble, and knew I’d have to work extra hard to get to that level of bubble blowing mastery.
Sweeping the neighbor’s porch and found pennies (which is perhaps why I’m one of the luckiest people alive) went to feed my bubble blowing proficiency quest, but that day I was short on funds.
Standing next to my mother at the checkout stand at our neighborhood grocery store, the dazzling array of candy bars, chewing gum, and hard candies on the rack next to the cash register held no allure for me. It was the Double Bubble I wanted…no, NEEDED! I pulled at my mother’s hemline as she chatted amicably with the store clerk, but she ignored me.
Yes, I knew it wasn’t polite to interrupt adults, but she wouldn’t respond…
It’s only fair to admit that, along with my burgeoning work ethic, which has served me well my entire life, I had a certain disregard for authority figures and “the rules” when they inconvenienced me, which has, ironically enough, made my life a bit of a bumpy ride!
She chatted on as the clerk rang up her purchases. I tugged her skirt again as I gazed longingly at the piece of bubble gum that seemed to call my name.
I tugged harder and she swatted my hand away, but never looked down or skipped a beat in her conversation. In those days she stood on principle, and I knew she wouldn’t pay me the slightest bit of attention because I was being rude. While admittedly an odd combination, I am both passionate and pragmatic. (Living proof, if you will, that God has a sense of humor!) Pitching a fit never worked because she’d just throw a pitcher of ice water on me to cool me off (yes, I’d tried, and yes, she had…many times!), and if I kept on, I’d feel the back of her hand upside my head, so I let up.
Not that I’d lost my interest in that lovely piece of Double Bubble, mind you. Oh, no! In fact, it loomed larger than life before me. Tempting me with its sweet, rubbery yumminess! Taunting me with visions of the neighborhood children gasping in admiration and wide-eyed wonder as I blew a bubble within a bubble within a bubble! My eyes feasted on it, then darted to my mother, to the store clerk who could only see the top of my head from where he stood behind the counter, then back to the gum.
It wasn’t premeditated, I swear! I didn’t walk into that store with my mother thinking, ‘I think I’ll steal a piece of bubble gum today!’ Nevertheless…my heart pounded in my throat, and yes, I reached my hand out and snatched it. Then, eyes fastened on my mother, eased it deep into the pocket of my jeans. It was really easy, simple, and yet…
I remember pulling at the material of my jeans to try and make it as lumpy as possible so nobody could tell there was a piece of Double Bubble buried amidst the rumpled fabric.
Once it was safely stowed, I stood with my hands demurely folder over the lump, looking, to all the world, like a golden-haired angel patiently waiting for the clerk to finish ringing us up so we could leave. A picture perfect angel on the outside, at least. On the inside I quaked and tingled on the verge of hyperventilating! Had a four year-old ever died of an exploded heart? Could a throat squeeze shut by itself, never to allow air to pass through again? Perhaps I would be the first child in history to die of…
A transaction, which in reality probably took less than a minute, felt like HOURS!! That two block walk from the store to our home was the longest journey of my life!
It is just one piece of gum!
Which doesn’t belong to you!
I’ll NEVER do it again, I swear!
Liar, liar, pants on FIRE!!!
I NEED it!!!!
You need a spanking!
I deserve it!
You deserve to go to jail! Perhaps even beheaded…
From that moment on, my subconscious and ego have been at war with each other! Yes, my ego is a selfish bitch, and, when required to rein the bitch in, my subconscious can be a fatalistic drama queen!
I wasn’t allowed to cross the street by myself, so the moment we crossed the street on our block, I left my mother in the dust and ran for home! Ran straight to my room, looked around to make sure nobody saw what I was doing, dug my pilfered booty out of my pocket, stuffed it in the back of my sock drawer, and carefully arranged the socks so they hid it without looking like they were hiding something! A difficult task, consuming an inordinate amount of time, when one knows they’ve done wrong, but have absolutely no intention of fessing up to it!
I couldn’t chew it right away, so of course, I had to hide it. Surely the entire world knew I had no penny to buy it, so I’d have to be patient and wait for the right time. God forbid I be caught chewing gum I had no right to chew! (I probably would have choked on it anyway.) I stayed inside the house, close to my room, close to my sock drawer, all day long. An interminable wait when one is young and rambunctious! When my besties came to ask if I could play, I feigned a stomach ache…which wasn’t far from the truth because my stomach WAS in knots. The fact that it was self-induced by guilt made it illicit, unspeakable, and thus, much worse. Plus, I had to keep an eye on that sock drawer, didn’t I?
Before going to bed that night I took my treasure out of my drawer and put it under my pillow least someone rifle through my sock drawer in the middle of the night. Granted, I had had no reason to believe anybody had ever dug through my drawers in the middle of the night before, but then again, I’d never stolen anything before either!
That night I had the first dream I can remember. My first nightmare…
The gum beneath my pillow turned into a rotten tooth, which the regular tooth fairy wouldn’t touch, so she sent the evil tooth fairy to come take it. (As we all know, the evil tooth fairy doesn’t leave quarters, but removes all the healthy teeth of sleeping children!)
The evil tooth fairy was the store clerk with a gigantic knife whose blade gleamed brightly in the moonlight. I ran before he could stab me. Ran, and ran, and ran! He chased me with his big knife, only he had no head, arms, or legs. Just a torso wielding a knife that was gaining on me, screaming for my teeth, screaming for his stolen gum…
The next day I broke my mother’s rule by crossing the street and going to the store by myself. I handed the gum back to the store clerk with a tearful confession, an apology, and an assurance I wouldn’t be mad at him if he told my mother. I had no intention of EVER telling her, of course, but I felt such a relief when I handed it back that it was worth facing my mother’s wrath if I must! It must’ve been the crocodile tears and gut-wrenching sobs that did the trick because, while I waited on the edge of my seat for the axe to fall (which would surely happen when he told my mother), it never did. At least, she never said a word about it, and to this day I’ve never said a word to her about it.
The effect of that event on my life has been profound! Ten years later, as a teenager, I shoplifted some clothes from K-Mart, with the same horrifying result of nightmares and unending guilt, which threatened to choke me to death until I made it right! I thought I needed the gum and the clothes to be truly happy and fulfilled. I was wrong!
My Grandma Kiddoo used to say that experience is the best teacher, and she was right! As a result of stealing, and suffering the mental anguish of having done so, I can proclaim unequivocally that I am NOT a thief! Since then, while things may have found their way into my bag at slumber parties and other gatherings – indeed, if pens counted I’d do hard time – I have never knowingly, intentionally, taken what does not rightfully belong to me!
It would take another forty-some-odd years, however, for the implications of how my dream spoke to, and effected, my conscious mind to sink in, but that singular event, and the nightmare it precipitated, planted the seed of knowledge within me that my mind can either be a powerful weapon used to destroy me, or partner and collaborator to nurture, build, and bolster me, and the choice is mine to make via the actions I take.