A law is under consideration to allow citizens to break into the other citizens’ vehicles in order to retrieve a child who has been left inside. With cases of parents and grandparents forgetting their children/grandchildren in the backseat becoming more and more commonplace, I think it’s a good law, especially in light of Georgia’s summer heat.
But, it’s definitely not one I would have supported in the 1970s. The highest honor my mom could bestow on me and my sister was allowing us to wait in the car for her while she went in and did her shopping. I cannot describe the exhilaration. Of course, we kept our windows down – and our doors locked – as if that would save us, but the truth is we never had to worry. The only time we would be in trouble was if we laid on the horn or hung out the window and waved too hard at passerbys. In that case, someone would recognize us, go into the store and promptly tell on us. Mother worked for the school system, and the fact that I could never get away with anything because of that was the bane of my 10-year-old existence.
If we were lucky, Mom would leave the a.m. radio on and a song such as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” would start to play, and my sister and I would sing every word as the breeze blew through our hair, or more than likely, as our thighs stuck to the seat, and we waved a piece of paper rapidly as a fan. Sometimes, I’d scoot into the driver’s seat, under the big round steering well of my mom’s white Pontiac and pretend to drive. In my mind’s eye, the car was a comvertible, the song was something by Andy Gibb, and my legs were long enough to reach the pedals. In my dreams, my sister and I would roar out of town, leaving a trail of busy bodies wagging their fingers and clucking their tongues behind us. OK, truthfully, they’d be clucking because I roared off and left my sister behind because she wouldn’t stop looking at me.
Ah, nothing like the imaginary freedom of the open road.
Apart from the independence, there’s another significant reason my sister and I were grateful to be able to wait in the car. We hated going inside the store, no matter what store it was. My mother had, and still has, a warm manner that made everyone from the bread aisle to the meat department want to tell her his or her life story, and what’s worse is she’s a good listener! She’d patiently listen and ask probing questions and take the time to give thoughtful responses, while my sister and I would wave off cigarette smoke from shoppers and compare the bottoms of our feet to see whose had gotten the dirtiest from walking down the grocery aisles without shoes. At least at the end of the grocery shopping trip, we were likely to have conned a pack of Little Debbie oatmeal pies out of Mom in exchange for our misery.
The worst experiences, however, occurred in the downtown fabric store. First of all, there was no air in the fabric store, not one breath. Second, there was nothing to look at in the fabric store, except, you guessed it, fabric. Third, I did not always enjoy the matching outfits my mom made my sister and me from material purchased at said fabric store. Of course, had I behaved better and not pleaded, whined and begged to stay in the car until she threatened me bodily harm or to tell my dad (same difference), then maybe said fabric may have looked a little more ten-year-old girl appropriate, instead of six, to match my sister’s age. Who’s to say? I just know I hated that place.
I’m not sure how my sister felt about it. I only knew she hid under the fabric rolls once we were in there and would not come out for what felt like hours. I was convinced I would die in there, or worse, be locked in and have to spend the night until my sister started sleep walking, and we found her hiding place.
I had this happen in K-mart once, the locked in part, that is. Somehow my mom didn’t heed the last call announcements, and the front doors were bolted. About the time panic set in, we were ushered out the back through a dark warehouse, where we shuffled through in a herd, until we exited out the back side of the store, seemingly miles from our car.
It had quite an impact on an imaginative girl, enough to know she’d rather take her chances and wait in the car. It's too bad kids today can’t.