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Shoplifting toddlers

Family members recall things differently. Even major events. Reminiscing can be fun but challenging.

It takes a few people to fill in the gaps and co-remember the story. In the end, what's pieced together might look nothing like your memory.

Last weekend, my sister texted me this photo. She was clearing out some boxes from my parents' place. "Remember these? I believe the story is we shoplifted them?"

I do.

Mom had us both in the shopping cart. We were maybe 2 and 4. She was in the parking lot before she saw that we had taken the dolls. Imagine now. A new mom. No debit back then. Only had so much money in her purse. Embarrassed. Oh, so embarrassed. She went right back into the store. Put the dollar bills in our little hands. Made us pay the lady.

Shoplifting toddlers. One of my earliest memories. I can see the cart, the money clutched in one fist, the doll in the other.

A dandy story. Yet mom never repeated it. She didn't trot it out after dinner, serving it up with tea and a few date squares or retell around the campfire at the cabin when friends with fresh ears came out around the bay for the weekend. This one was packed away in a cardboard box under the stairs for over 40 years.

So why did she keep those dolls and why do I remember the story so vividly?

Perhaps it's because for the first time I felt a complex self-conscious emotion -- guilt. Or because how my mother reacted in that moment -- she knew we wanted those little rubber tub toys. And, instead of shaming us for that, she went back into the store, paid for them and let us take those those dolls home. Just one of the many ways, quiet ways she supported us. Maybe that's the exact same reason she kept them after all those years.

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