Juju sat in the tan 1962 Cadillac and waited for her mother to exit the post office, she was six years old. She was looking down at her coloring book when she heard the driver side door open and shut. She began to ask her mother a question and looked up to meet the gaze of a complete stranger! You aren’t my Natalie, the woman shrieked! You are not my mother!
Juju and the woman simultaneously looked at the car next to the Cadillac, a tan Chevy Impala. A teary eyed child had her face pressed against the window, her yelps silenced by the separation of glass. The woman’s faced reddened and she made a hasty exit, switched cars and drove off. Juju’s mother exited the building and now was seated inside the car looking for her keys in her purse. Juju stated, “you know there was another mommy in here while you were gone.” Oh yeah, her mother asked…where is she now? “She drove off with the other kid. I am the right kid for you.” Yes you are dear, now we have to go to Piggly Wigglys for some grocery shopping.
Grocery shopping was pretty fun stuff Juju thought. She liked the cereal aisle and all the stuff at the ends of each aisle tended to be good too. Juju’s goal today was to get her mother to buy a boxed Chef Boy-ar-dee Pizza mix, in addition to the obligatory two boxes of fish sticks she required a week. Juju had made the brave decision to insert this particular boxed pizza into her daily diet of fish sticks for one reason. Chef Boy-ar-dee had his picture on the box and he looked surprisingly similar to her dad.
Juju wondered if all chefs looked like her dad? This guy had the same hat, mustache and handkerchief around his neck. Plus the pizza was plain cheese, Juju’s favorite. She didn’t like cheese on a sandwich or hamburger, but on pizza is was just right. It was made with just the red sauce and sprinkles of fake cheese, the absolute best fake cheese though, for sure! Juju thought her mother would be happy too, she was willing to try real Italian food.
With a minimal amount of negotiation, (Juju was child number seven), the boxed pizza was securely in the basket beside the two green boxes of Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Juju had been eating nothing but the cylindrical white fish for the first several months of first grade. Juju’s mother had informed her that she would have to eat one piece a fruit a day for the entire week and then on Friday night she would help her make the pizza. Deal!
Juju wandered up and down the aisles for a while, then met her mother at the check out line. Something for the road was secreted in the front pocket of her blue shorts. She had to lift up her skirt to get to her shorts underneath, but didn’t think anyone had seen her. The shorts were required at Harrison Lane Elementary because boys and girls had P.E. together. Juju heard the teachers talking that maybe the next year they and the female students might be allowed to wear pants! Juju thought 2nd grade was going to be much better because of that one possibility!
The groceries were placed in the backseat and Juju and her mother took their places once again in the car. The right mommy this time Juju chuckled. Her mother, still not knowing what she was talking about, looked over to see Juju unwrapping something. Juju was nonchalantly unwrapping one Brach’s Neopolitan candy with four more on her lap. What on earth do you think you are doing!! I didn’t pay for any candy Juju! “But this candy is not in a box, everybody takes a piece, it’s free,” said Juju. It is most certainly not free Juju. You march your butt right back in the Piggly and give it back. Be sure and say you are sorry!
Juju begrudgingly exited the Cadillac and walked back into the Piggly. carefully re-wrapping the piece she almost had in her mouth. She walked up to the young bag boy in the starched white shirt and black bow-tie. She handed him the candy and confessed her theft. “I took this candy and didn’t pay for it. Will you accept my sorry?” Yeah kid, it’s okay, said the pimply sixteen year-old, who himself probably ate 10 pieces of Brach’s a shift.
Juju’s mother spoke to her about shoplifting on the way home and said that people actually went to jail for it. Juju was happy her mother had helped her stay out from behind bars, but still had a hankering for some candy. As the car pulled into their drive-way on Oak Street, Juju’s mother patted her on the shoulder. Remember you still have pizza for Friday, we can eat it and watch The Partridge Family. That put the smile back on Juju’s face, Friday was nine fish sticks away!
Boy, what a day, the wrong mother had almost taken her and then the police could have thrown her in jail. She wondered if Natalie’s mom would have let her keep the candy? She had seen her mother eat grapes in the produce section before, she would go for those next time. Wow, Juju did have the right mom after all.