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Tonight, I went to a writing “salon” for the first time. I went not knowing what to expect and with one main goal: expand my social circle. I didn’t necessarily feel like I didn’t help, per se, with my writing, but I do need something to do this summer. So, I went. Shockingly, this group of middle age women will not be helping me expand my social circle, but I very much enjoyed the writing salon’s writing aspect. Go figure. Here is the outcome of my first writing prompt from tonight. Any feedback, is much appreciated.

Prompt: What have you stolen and why did you do it?

I can honestly say that I have only ever stolen once in my entire life, although I’m only 28 and there is still time in case I get get the urge again. However, after that mortifying and pivotal experience which still weighs on me from so many years ago, I doubt I will ever steal again.

I can still remember how cold is was that day in December. Days before Christmas, fresh snow on the ground. My mother and I were doing the weekly grocery shopping at the Giant in the mall. Rockville, Maryland was all a-glow and lit in preparation for Christmas. houseThere were Santas, sleighs, reindeer, ribbons, and shiny Christmas ornaments everywhere to be seen; everywhere, that is, except our house: the only Jewish house on the block.

Now, being a five-year-old girl and accustomed to pretty, shiny, sparkly, and generally gaudy things, I grew more and more concerned with my parents’ seeming lack of interest in Christmas decorating. “The lights on your house are so Santa can find you,” explained one girl from school. In kindergarten, Jessica Smith was already honing the art of making other girls anxious. She continued to explain, “The balls on the tree are to show Santa how much you love him so he’ll leave you the best presents!”

Crap. I knew that little five-year-old me would never be able to hang lights and procure a tree without the help of my parents or siblings, neither of which seemed remotely interested in heeding my warnings about disrespecting Santa. Needless to say, I was quite troubled over this.

Then, back to that day I was grocery shopping with my mother, Christmas was a mere few days away and I thought all hope was lost, when suddenly, standing at the checkout counter surrounded by assorted candy and magazines with my mom, I looked over and saw red ballsthe solution I had been praying for. There, hanging in plain sight and within a five-year-old’s reach were bright, shiny, red, reflective Christmas balls. They were acting as bulletin board decoration, beautifying the store’s weekly specials and employee of the month.

I remember taking a quick inventory of my situation in my head. Santa currently had no idea I existed. These shiny red gifts from God himself would fix that situation for me. And what does a grocery store need with Santa balls anyway? It’s not like there are children who live at the store and are expecting presents. It was decided. If I had any hope in having presents of my own from Santa, those ornaments had to be prominently displayed in my house.

So, I did the unthinkable. I waited until my mom was busy signing the cheque at the cashier and I snuck over to the bulletin board. As quickly and as inconspicuously as I could, I pulled about eight ornaments off the wall and stuffed them into every possible crevice my fluffy winter parka offered. In all four pockets, up my sleeves, under the waist band. Everywhere. I was elated! Victory was finally mine! My heart was racing with adrenaline as I innocently rejoined my mother, leaving the store. I had had a problem which I personally solved without the help from the nonbelievers in my family. I remember thinking how shocked and jealous my older sisters will be on Christmas morning when Santa only comes for me and not for them.

Once my mother and I were home, I ran up to my room and began to meticulously hang my new contraband balls on my lamp, a natural stand-in for a tree, with great ceremony. I hummed “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as I carefully chose the perfect spot for each shiny red globe. And when I was finished, I stepped back to admire my handiwork with tremendous pride. Santa was coming to town and everyone had me to thank.

Just then, my mother came up the stairs, curious as to where I had disappeared to. You know, the idea that she would be upset about seeing the ornaments never occurred to me once. That, I suppose, was my biggest mistake. She walked into my room, took one look at the Christmas-clad lamp, and completely flipped out.

In her anger, she demanded to know where the ornaments had come from. I panicked and lied, blaming the whole thing on my imaginary friends, John and Sheniqua. Now, I had stolen and lied to my mother, but Santa would understand that it was all in reverence to him, of that I was certain.

Of course, Mom didn’t buy the story and showed her hand: “I know you took these from the grocery store! And you are going straight back there, returning them, and apologizing.” What??? Return the only thing guaranteeing that I, too, will have a merry Christmas? That was too much for little five-year-old me to bear and with that, I began to cry. I pleaded with her, but I stuck with my story the whole time. I rationalized that John and Sheniqua were so worried about Santa that they couldn’t help but borrow the balls from the grocery store, with the plan to return them after Christmas. I asked why the balls were so important to the Giant. I demonstrated that it didn’t cost us anything, because they were free stolen. Mom was an unmovable force. The balls were going back.

I was mortified. How on earth could I face the grocery store people? I would surely get thrown into jail! People get arrested for stealing! I had one final request: Could my older sister, Kim, bring me back to the store instead of mom? Miraculously, mom agreed.

The drive back to the mall was long and quiet, as my sister didn’t quite know what to say to me, other than, “Joan..you know what you did was wrong, right?” Until the very end, I stuck to my story that my imaginary friends were to blame, not me. In fact, at this point, I was doing John and Sheniqua a favor by returning the balls for them so that they didn’t have to face the consequences; I was that good of a friend.

We entered the mall, and there was statue of Santa and his sleigh greeting us, laughing at me, mocking me. The sleigh was empty, obviously because Santa had already delivered the presents to the boys and girls who were ready for him. Not wanting to face the grocery store manager, I lied one last time and told Kim that the sleigh was once full of ornaments and this is where John and Sheniqua told me they got these red ones from. I emptied my pockets into the empty sleigh and watched as one by one, the red globes of Christmas joy rolled out of reach into the abyss of the empty sleigh.

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