Baby’s First Shoplifting Gig

December 2nd, 2019

I had taken my daughters to brunch at the Four Columns Inn, which is a very fancy spot to which only a lunatic would take small children. It was Grampa David’s 70th birthday, and Uncle Yaya and I treated him — with kids in tow. 

They were remarkably well-behaved at brunch. It probably helped that for some spooky reason we were the only ones in the restaurant, and the waitress was doting on them with hot chocolate, and also, I did let them take turns looking at videos of themselves on my phone. What can I say. They are vain, and sometimes, a mom just wants to enjoy her corned beef hash and poached eggs in relative peace.

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On the heels of brunch success I decided to push my luck and take them into the hardware store. We are about to get a whole bunch of snow, and I had this vision of making wreaths from forest found objects. I found a parking spot directly in front, which meant I didn’t have to argue with the girls about putting their coats back on. We just ran right in. Me, smiling to be doing something fun with my kids. Them, excited to run an errand (something we rarely do, and you’ll soon find out why). 

As soon as we got in the super crowded hardware store, where maybe one to two people were working, they became feral raccoons once again. Running up and down the aisles, veering dangerously close to saw blades and displays of glass jars, pulling stuff down off shelves, running into strangers’ legs. I stood in line for about ten minutes as they destroyed the place, until it was my turn to ask a question: “Do you have floral tape?”

She waved her arm in a vague direction — “end of that aisle” — before I lost her attention. I charged off in that direction, racing against time, only to find myself lost in the plumbing accessories aisle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one daughter drop a magnifying glass on the floor. The other was nowhere in sight. “Phoebe!” I shouted. “Phoebe! Phoebe! PHOEBE!!!!!” Finally I heard a faint “Here!” from miles away.

By the time I finally corralled them both, my luck had run out. I left the store defeated and yelling like a crazy person. “GET IN THE CAR!!!” 

On the way home we had a very stern talking to. They were pretty quiet.

When we got back, things were right back to their normal chaos as the girls jumped right into rearranging all the chairs in the house into a formation they called “a campfire.” Next thing I knew, Eliza was holding real matches. How do they even know about campfires? Only a completely insane person would take these two camping.

Nevertheless, I let them literally play with matches for a while, unsupervised, in the house, because I had to go chase down my feral cat Budapest, who slipped between my legs while I was letting the dog out and proceeded to stalk my neighbor’s poor cat Minnie in the woods.

The house did not burn down today. Success!

Back in the kitchen, my attention split between the dog, the cat, and two daughters, Phoebe chanted “Mama! Mama! Did I get the right thing?” I finally looked up. She was holding a little pink plastic gadget that did not look familiar to me at all.

“What is that?” I asked.

“From the hardware store. Did I get the right thing?”

Can’t wait to enter “first shoplifting gig” into my baby book.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What I’m eating:

The usual Pilgrim gluttony but also a whole range of incredible desserts made by my mom, the dessert savant, who I quite think should open her own dessert shop:


What I’m reading:

Mr. & Mrs. Prince — totally riveting account of the first black landowner in Vermont, an emancipated enslaved person named Abijah Prince, whose land and house were right up the road from where I live now.

What I’m listening to:

Christmas classics. Yup, I’m one of those. Kids are just an excuse for me to listen to it. 

What I’m working on:

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2 Responses to “Baby’s First Shoplifting Gig”

  1. Sarah Shurtleff says:

    Hysterically vivid. Remember the Four Columns but was always too poor in VT days to eat there. Love your writing. Your mom has spent more than enough time making good food for public consumption. Let her enjoy indulging her family with her skills. Enjoy the snow!

  2. [...] few people have asked me how it went when I marched my kids back into the hardware store to replace the thing Phoebe pocketed the other day — which incidentally, turned out to be a very tiny, very lightweight flashing red light. I don’t [...]

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