Monday, October 12, 2009

The Great Jewel Heist

My holy roller parents raised me up to be an honest, God Fearin Christian Woman, but to their great dismay I went 180 degrees in the opposite direction. If it was dirty, I wanted to put my hands in it. Loud? Turn it up. Smelly, icky, or otherwise something only boys should be interested in? Count me in. In hindsight, they would have been better off using that money they spent on my classical piano lessons to put a good criminal attorney on retainer.

My first big crime was committed at the ripe old age of 4, and I still see it play out as if it happened yesterday, though many of the surrounding circumstances have long since faded into blur. I remember holding mom's hand as we wandered around a store, some 70s version of a Walgreens or perhaps it was a five and dime store, and staring at all the things I and my brothers were forbidden to have. Candy. Chocolate. Gum, the kind that had sugar in it and popped. We were only allowed to have Trident and sugary treats were absolutely off limits in our household, as was salt, butter, and everything else that made food worth eating.

At the counter, while mom paid for her purchases, my eyes landed upon a wonderous treat, one so enticing that I saw nothing else around me. A great red diamond shaped cherry sucker, mounted atop a yellow plastic ring, dangled right in front of me. To my mind, it was the goodie of all goodies available in that store, a tantalizingly sweet jewel the size of my fist, and I had to have it. Of course, asking mom was out of the question. The only answer that lay there was a stern, resounding "NO", or worse, an offer of roasted soybeans to snack on as an alternative. As if. However, mom wasn't paying any attention, nor was anyone else. Almost without thinking, I quickly palmed the candy ring into my pocket. For a moment, fear enveloped me as what I was doing sunk in. I was STEALING, and God himself had said Thou Shalt Not. However, it wasn't God's wrath I feared, but that of my father should I get caught.

Then the fear evaporated, and was replaced by an even more powerful feeling that to this day I am unable to fully describe. Euphoria, excitement, and a not insignificant amount of smugness washed over me as we left the store and I realized that I had not been caught, not been snatched by my shirt collar by an irate shopkeeper, had indeed made off with the prize of the day. Not only had I stolen something and gotten away with it, but I had gotten something NO one in my family was allowed to possess.

However, being only 4 years old I was neither skilled at deception nor particularly clever, and upon arriving at home I mistakenly believed I was in the clear. While in my room working a puzzle, I unwrapped my cherry ring and greedily popped it into my mouth. The sweet cherry taste was pure bliss to a child who had only been allowed honey for a sweet, and then only as a remedy to soothe a sore throat. It was right about then that my mother barged into my room and caught me. It wasn't that she knew I had it and was lying in wait. She just didn't allow any of us to keep our doors closed, lest we be doing something she didn't approve of. Go figure, I wasn't. She snatched the candy ring from me and demanded to know where I had gotten it. I lied and claimed someone at the store gave it to me. Of course, she saw through that and knew I'd stolen it.

Fifteen minutes later I was at the store, tears streaming down my face, handing over my stolen treat and apologizing for the theft. Of course, the only thing I was sorry about was that I got caught, and privately I chided myself for being so stupid as to pull it out where mom could catch me. I told myself, next time I would not be so easy to catch. Even the terrible beating I got from my father after he got home and was informed of his young daughter's criminal exploits did nothing to disuade me from planning out my next candy jewel heist.

Later that evening, I was afflicted with a headache of enormous proportions. My mother triumphantly exclaimed it was a punishment from God, for my wicked deeds. I didn't know about that, but I did know I felt as if my head were about to explode. Years later I recognize that headache for what it was... and any drug user or caffine addict would to. I was crashing from the adrenline rush that I'd gotten from stealing that .50 candy ring. The high I'd gotten from that simple act of disobedience was so intense that it far outweighed the fear of being caught, of being beaten, or even of incurring the wrath of God, and even while lying in bed on my side unable to sleep on my back from the painful bruises my antics had earned me, I dreamed of the next time I'd be able to steal a piece of candy.

The Great Jewel Heist of my toddler years is decades behind me now, but it was the start of a long, and often very profitable, career in criminal behavior that I did not grow out of until my mid 30s. During that time, many tried to put a stop to my exploits, but neither God, my parents, or the police had any success. What stopped me was waking up one day and realizing it just wasn't cute any more. It wasn't funny, and it wasn't really that much fun either. Having my name appear in the local paper under the Police Reports was embarassing, and the quality of your friends greatly declines when word gets out that you're a theif. Do I miss the rush? You bet your ass. I see things on a daily basis that I could boost, and often things I could really use since apparently honest work doesn't pay shit unless you're an AIG exec. However, these days I have a lot to lose, including a great husband, some fantastic friends and neighbors, and a life I'd like to live out without the meddling of a probation officer with half my IQ. The addiction to crime is still there, and I try to satisfy it with obsessively reading true crime stories, watching CSI and Law & Order, and planning a myriad of crimes in my head. It helps, a little. The guys from TLC's To Catch A Thief are my idols. They have my dream job, the ability to b&e without fear of prosecution.

Then again, without the fear of getting caught, I suspect the thrill would be gone.