Little Girl Thief

I don’t know why I stole the money from the purse.  I was plenty old enough to know it was wrong.  But I did it anyway.  I’ll never forget how my mother cried when I confessed.  And how disappointed she was in me.

I don’t even remember exactly how old I was the day I stole the money, but I was around 10 or 11 years old.  My sisters and our neighborhood friends and I used to spend most of our summer days at a local Knights of Columbus swimming pool where our family had a membership.  For weeks, my friend L and I had noticed the small dark brown suede fringed pouch hanging from a shower rod in the girls bathroom at the pool.  It never moved.

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Photo credit: Etsy.com

Then one day, my friend convinced me the purse had been abandoned and we should look inside.  She climbed up and retrieved the small pouch from the shower rod and peeked inside.  It contained a few dollars– around $5-6 as well as I remember.  Back in the late 60s and early 70s, that was a lot of money to two preteen girls.  I told my friend we should put it back, that taking it would be stealing.  She said not if it had been forgotten or abandoned.  So we took that money and we divided it between the two of us.

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By the time I went home that afternoon, my friend had convinced me we had not stolen anything, that we had just taken money that had been abandoned.  I had no guilt whatsoever for taking the money.  In fact, I was so convinced I had done nothing wrong, that I didn’t even flinch when I told my mother what I had done.

My mother always gave me $2.00- $2.50 when I went to the swimming pool which was plenty to get a hot dog, or hamburger, chips, and a drink for lunch and then ice cream or a sno-cone for an afternoon snack.

When I got home from swimming that day, as was par for the course, my mother asked me if I had any money left over from the pool that day so I quickly retrieved my coin purse and counted the money.  “I have over $3 left,”  I blurted.  Imagine my mother’s puzzled expression as she tried to figure out how I ended up with more money than I had started out with.  Then I explained how L and I had been watching the small abandoned brown suede purse with the fringes. I told her how we had watched it for days and then weeks, and how it never moved.  How we took the money inside the purse because whoever it belonged to had obviously forgotten about it.  And how we had hung the purse back up on the shower rod where we had found it, after taking the money.  My mother’s mouth flew open.  “OH GAIL, YOU DIDN’T TAKE THAT MONEY!” she yelled.  I hung my head.  And then she cried.  She told me that it was not my money to steal, and that what I had done was wrong.  “But it had been left there and abandoned…. FOR WEEKS,” I said!  “I DON’T CARE, IT WASN’T YOURS TO TAKE,” my mother admonished.  She then calmly reminded me of the 8th commandment:  Thou Shalt Not Steal. 

My mother informed me I would be returning the money the next day and would make a full confession to the swimming pool manager.  Her tears and telling me she was so ashamed of what I had done, was enough punishment and hurt me worse than any spanking she could have given me.  I went to bed with a hurting heart that night realizing that what I had done was indeed wrong.  I told God I was sorry and asked Him for forgiveness.

The next day, I was driven to the swimming pool with my friend L, and together we walked in and confessed our thievery to the manager and returned the money we had taken.  He had us put the money back in the brown suede pouch.  Believe me, I did feel shame and guilt that day.  The manager made no big deal out of the incident and passed no judgement.  He watched us put the money back into the suede pouch.  Part of me wished he would have gotten mad at us.  My friend chided me for blabbing to my mother about taking the money.  She was mad at me for a few days but quickly got over it.  In hindsight, I’m not sure she ever really realized that what we did was wrong.

Several weeks later, on the day the pool closed for the summer, I noticed that little brown suede purse still hung in the same place, high above my head on the shower rod. Years later, the pool closed down and the bathroom made out of cinder blocks was torn down.  I imagined that dark brown suede pouch still hanging from that shower rod the day that bathroom was demolished. I envisioned it being buried in the rubble.

The other day, my sister asked me if I remembered how mad our mother was the day she learned I had stolen the money from the purse at the swimming pool.  I shuddered.  “How could I forget that?” I replied.  It’s almost fifty years later, and I’ve never forgotten my mother’s reaction or her tears over what I had done.

And so help me, I never stole again.

Did you ever steal anything as a child?  How did you feel?  What was the outcome? 

Gail ♥

About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in Childhood memories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Little Girl Thief

  1. enitsirk24 says:

    Interesting how your friend knew it was stealing but coaxed you to think what you did was fine.
    Your story made me uncomfortable. Your poor mother…so distraught.

    My ex-husband made me believe we were not stealing a Christmas tree on the side of the road Chrstmas tree stand. Nobody was manning the place, but he had me write a check and we placed it where we thought would be safe and noticed. In hindsight, I bet it blew away in the wind.
    I felt super guilty that Christmas.

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for your comment. I can understand you feeling uncomfortable with this story. I was uncomfortable writing it. It’s certainly not a moment I was proud of. My sister brought all those memories back to the surface recently when she asked if I remembered how upset our mother was at me when she found out I had taken it. I decided I would write about it. Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting. I hope the Christmas tree stand owners found your check.

  2. Mary Mangee says:

    I love the fact that in our childhood the true discipline for us was how we disappointed other people. All it took was a look from our Mother’s to know we had done wrong and that lesson stayed with us forever.I talked back to my mother once when I was about 12 years old and a quick smack across the face cured me of any disrespect for my mother ever again. It was not child abuse, it was effective discipline and I knew as soon as I spoke that I should never have talked to my Mother that way.

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for your comment Mary. You are so right. Back then, it only took that one look from my mother. That’s all it took! It was, like you say, very effective discipline. I never, EVER wanted to disappoint my mother or make her feel ashamed of me.

  3. Great story Gail! Isn’t it something that our parents’ disappointment is the deepest cut? I know it always was for me. I wonder why that purse was left hanging there all that time? Was it moral bait for the young girls who used that facility?

    • Gail says:

      I’ve often wondered the same thing- if the little purse was some sort of moral bait testing all of us girls. That little brown suede pouch seemed to be a permanent fixture in that bathroom! The only other thing I could think of is that maybe it had belonged to someone’s swimming pool guest who really did forget about it and so there was no one there to ever claim it.

      I’m sorry to say, in this day and age, I don’t think it would have stayed there long, and would have been stolen within hours. I hope I’m wrong about that but don’t think I am. We grew up in very different times in the 60s and 70s.

      • Seems like logically the manager would’ve put it in his office for safe keeping until someone claimed it. Sadly, I agree with you about the scenario of this day & age. Although I do know a lot of Moms who would’ve done the same thing your Mom did. Which gives me hope.

  4. Billy Mac says:

    what a great story. Yes, I stole a candy bar when I was a kid. I got to the parking lot and went back and returned it. The store owner yelled at me and then winked. Mixed message but it didn’t feel right and I never did it again

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