During my sister’s third year of life, she was more or less a Houdini. My mother would send her out to play because that’s what you did with children that would not quietly sit on the square of a blanket and play quietly with their toys. That is how things were done back then. My sister would find another neighbor kid banished to the out-of-doors and hang out until called for dinner.
I was always the one sent to get her but finding her was always the challenge. Our base area was not gated in or walled off like many are. School was right next door and up the hill maybe half a mile was our non-denominational church. Another half mile or so was the commissary (grocery store) that children were not allowed to go into. They had a caged area in front for us to wait for our mother to finish her shopping. like little monkeys.
Most of the time mom would leave the kids with me while she did her grocery shopping so we didn’t have to be in the cage. In my search for my sister I found her and another little boy sitting along the back of the closed commissary munching away on packages of Oreo cookies and they had many packages of Juicy Fruit gum spread all around them.
They were so cute sitting there with their picnic and I asked where all the cookies and gum had come from. Maybe the little boys mother gave them packages and packages of cookies and gum. But that didn’t feel like the answer I was going to get. I asked again, “where did you get the cookies and gum?” “From the jail my sister responded.” “What jail” I asked? My sister got up and showed me all the little windows lining the bottom layer of the building on a side I had never noticed. The little windows had bars on them. She pointed to one that was partway open.
Sis and her friend had wiggled into the basement of the commissary and carried out all those packages of Oreo cookies and Juicy Fruit gum and managed to get back out with them. I couldn’t imagine how they did it but I knew this was not good. I had them scoop up their loot, and I walked the boy back to his apartment and then walked my sister back home. She was pleased as punch with herself for discovering this treasure trove.
My dad was less pleased. He told my mother and I that she was not be outside of the house for any reason for at least two weeks in case someone might see her and identify her as the thief. He knew that if someone found out, he could lose his stripes over it and that would reduce our income. Then he went to visit the little boys family to make sure they understood what had transpired and the ramifications. I’m pretty sure my mother was well on her way to a breakdown after those two weeks with my sister confined to quarters. I’m also certain there was some stiff corporal punishment along with the confinement so that she never went near the commissary again. In the meantime, I developed quite the lifelong taste for Juicy Fruit gum and Oreo cookies. Yum. My baby sister, the procurer of contraband. How I loved that child. I smile every time I think about it.
From my heart to yours,