Being that my family and I lived what seemed hours away from civilization, my mom would have to schlep to Orange County, Charlottlesville or Culpeper for groceries.  This trip was as predictable as the tides, we went once a month and stocked up for everything you would need.  Will and I knew we were getting close to grocery time when the morning oatmeal was being reheated from the morning before.  By the way, I swore off oatmeal for about 5 years of my life because the inexplicable physical and chemical change oatmeal underwent upon reheating the beige sticks- to-your-ribs goop. 


So it was time to retrieve the monthly food and sundries and Will and I file in the Bronco (yes the same one where the Louisa will later be administered) and pray that we are headed to Charlottesville.  If we go to Charlottesville there is a glimmer of hope the Golden Arches will bless us with its meal of happiness.  We take off down the winding road, in the complete opposite direction of Charlottesville.  Disappointed, my brother and I sigh knowing we are headed to Orange.  There is nothing exciting in Orange other than the Safeway for groceries and the Western Auto for bikes.  We both had a bike so we knew that stop was out of the question. 


The trip to the grocery was seemingly normal as well as our treasure hunts through the store went quite well, until we were in the line to check out.   Everyone knows the checkout line was created by God so he can laugh and revel at the number of times mothers say “no” to their children asking for candy or gum.  Will and I were generally good in the checkout line, we didn’t ask for much.  Today was different; the rousing aroma of the 5 stick pack of Big Red gum would not release me from its bond.  I had to have it.


At first I tried the “ask and gaze method.”  We are all familiar with this method.  It is when we say in our sweetest voice “Momma, can I puuulease have the small pack of gum?” while looking up at her with the sad eyes that I believed hypnotized her to the point where her only response could be “Yes sugar, I love you”. 


So I execute that try.  I was denied!  Ok, wait a minute Anne be patient give her a minute and she will forget the ask-and-gaze.  I try a more standard direct method “Mom are you sure I can’t have the pack of gum?”  I got a “No! Anne I told you once, don’t ask again!” 

Whoa whoa whoa, hold your horses Mom, I haven’t even pulled out the batting-of-eyes try! 


My last try involved sticking the small pack on the conveyor belt to see if the lady checked it out before my mom saw it slip through her hands.  Maybe Mom got busy getting out coupons or was chatting with the Store Manager…and old “boyfriend” back in Mom’s early high school days.  Well of course her eagle-eye sense caught me and stuck it back on the shelf, giving me the look of death.  Her look was indescribable.  I believe to this day it could make a grown man cry. 


I knew it wasn’t going to happen with conventional methods…so I decided to sneak it out.  Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure I knew now to take things with out paying for them, I was taught many lessons by the age of four, I am almost certain Mom and Daddy didn’t leave this one out.  Anyway, I went against all teachings and grabbed the pack of gum and stuck it under my arm.  No one saw me!


We grab the cart and are pushing it out to the Bronco to put the groceries in.  I am careful to hold my arm against my body to hide my secret surprise from Mom or Will.  Mom gets the groceries in the car and tells us to get in the car.  For some reason gravity had to work against me that day….I reach up to pull myself in the back of the Bronco and the pack of gum falls out from under my arm.  I instantly look up in fear, simultaneously (I kid you not) my brother gives me the “look what you did now” look, my Mom gasps so hard a suctioned blackhole is created in front of her, and (the best part) a cop car pulls up in the loading zone of the Safeway. 


Just as the police officer is walking in the store, my Mom takes me by the hand with Will in the other.  I hear nothing other than Will crying “Momma, don’t send Anne to jail!”  We get in the store and Mom sees her old boyfriend and calls him over.  I am told to explain my actions to him and apologize.  I thought that would be the end of it.  Oh no! 


The stars didn’t align for the police officer to pull up at the same time just out of mere coincidence.  Mom instructs the store manager to call him over so they can arrest me because she “refused to live with a thief!”  The police officer comes over.  I have to relive the tale and he is shaking his head the entire time!  I am scared to death, Will is crying and I am sure my Mom is praising the patron saint of discipline.  The police officer starts in explaining what they do to thieves.  We go to jail, eat bad food, never have time to play and never see Mom and Daddy for a long time. 


He goes to pull out the hand-cuffs and cocks his head to the side, and says “You know Ma’am, I hate to tell you this, but you are going to have to take her home tonight.”  My Mom retorts “Well why not!  I didn’t raise a thief!”  He kindly shakes his head and says “We gave away our last small bed last night.  We just don’t have any room for her.”


RELIEF!  I am not a criminal!  I will not go to jail for a 20¢ pack of gum!


Mom concedes and takes Will and me out to the Bronco and we drive home.  No spanking, no fussing, no lectures.  My own bed never seemed so comfortable than that night.  In the end, that gum was returned back to the shelves of the store, the store manager was probably relieved that I wasn’t his daughter, and the police officer was probably pissed because I could have filled his quota for the month.