I couldn’t help humming Druscilla Penny when Kelly came into the kitchen. The ponytail on the side of her head was wrapped in three different fluorescent scrungies. Her oversized pink t-shirt, knotted at the waist, didn’t really match the polka dot skirt or black spandex shorts peeking out below. Lime green bulky socks bunched around her ankles competed with the sparkly laces on her canvas shoes.
“Mo-om.” She shook her jelly bracelets at me and rolled her eyes.
She’d known the words of the song for most of her eleven years, but I sang them anyway. “’…You’re very pretty, yes you are, but with all the junk you wear it’s hard to tell…’”
She rolled her eyes again and opened the refrigerator. “Did you put a drink in my lunch for the fieldtrip?”
“We’ll stop at the convenience store on the way to school for a soda and some chips. Ready?”
On the way, she informed me that her friends’ mothers were cool and didn’t tease them about clothes. I laughed, and she frowned. In the store, while I carried her Yoo-hoo and Cheetos to the checkout she lingered in the aisle behind me. As I turned to go, I glimpsed something drop into the purple purse that hung over Kelly’s shoulder. She glanced at me and headed for the door.
“Stop right there,” I hollered.
“Mo-om, everyone’s looking,” she whispered, but she stopped and watched me stride over to her, her hands gripping the purse.
“Let me see it.”
She looked around, then slid the purse off her shoulder and handed it to me, her eyes on the floor. I gasped when I saw the mountain of candy in the bottom. It looked like she had walked down the aisle and scooped everything within reach into the purse. I almost dropped it, trying to calm my shaking hands. I couldn’t believe my daughter would even think about shoplifting. I took a breath and shoved the purse back at her.
“Take this up to the counter and dump it out.”
“Mom, please don’t make me. Please.”
Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes, but I turned to the counter. She followed and turned the purse upside down without looking at it.
“I guess we weren’t done. How much for all this?” I asked the surprised clerk.
After paying, I grabbed the bag of candy and walked out of the store with Kelly behind me. I made sure she was watching when I dropped the bag into a trash bin. Neither of us spoke in the car. My racing heart kept repeating the refrain, “my daughter’s a thief, my daughter’s a thief.” She stared at her lap.
We were almost home when she asked, “Where are we going?”
“What about the field trip?”
“Obviously, you’re not going. You’re grounded. For the rest of your life.”
“But I have to go,” Kelly wailed. I didn’t bother responding.
When the car stopped she jumped out and ran to her room. “I hate you,” were the last words I heard before the door slammed. I sank into a kitchen chair, put my face in my hands and lifted a desperate prayer. “Oh Lord, how did this happen?”
After a while, my thoughts quieted and I reached for my Bible. I found Proverbs 22:6 easily; the page was dog-eared and the words were underlined in red. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Memories of Bible stories, Sunday School lessons and bedtime prayers sped through my mind. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer for help, and knocked on her door.
Naturally, I went in and sat on the bed. Her face was buried in her pillow. When I put my hand on her back, she took a deep shuddering breath.
“Kelly, honey, I love you.”
She turned her streaked face toward me. “Am I really grounded forever?”
“Of course not. Let’s talk about what you did and then we’ll see what the punishment will be.”
She sat up with a pathetic little hiccup. “It’s just that everyone expects me to do crazy things. That’s why they like me. I’m outrageous.”
I threw my arms around her. “Oh Kelly, you are outrageous. You’re outrageously cute and smart and funny. You don’t have to do stupid things to impress your friends. Just be yourself and you’ll be outrageously wonderful.”
Scripture is from the King James Version.
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