I broke the Eighth Commandment the other day.

I was finishing one or two Christmas shopping things that (annoyingly) couldn't be done on-line and I had both girls with me. Even just bringing The Dormouse to a store by herself is an experience in herding cats, so generally when I go shopping with the whole brood [yes, I refer to my two children as "whole brood" - I think it's obvious why I do not have more than two children], the only way to do it is by putting The Dormouse in the seat of the shopping cart and letting The Caterpillar's car seat occupy the entire basket. Then there is no room for purchases so as we go throughout the store and pick up items, they are strategically placed on and around The Caterpillar. She has balanced everything from Krispy Kremes to Kotex pads on her lap, arms and head in her short three months. She's my own tiny little sherpa. Often, many of the smaller items fall under the car seat and then when I arrive at the checkout stand there's a series of yoga moves involved where I lean over, sticking my posterior in other shoppers' faces in my attempts to look through the bottom of the cart to make sure I've retrieved all the Stuff.

Well on this day, I missed one, apparently. While walking through the store, I passed one of those bargain basement CD stands and noticed
this album that my mother had when I was a kid and used to play every Christmas morning. I figured $6.00 was cheap for a good nostalgic moment (although I've now learned that my mother does not even remember having the album, so maybe I dreamed it) so I grabbed it and tossed it in the cart behind the car seat. I went through the checkout line, managed to keep The Dormouse's hands off all the impulse items in the aisle and paid for my purchases. One of the clerks took pity on me with two kids and a bunch of Stuff - or perhaps he just didn't believe I could make it through the parking lot without getting one or all of us run over and didn't want the liability - and he walked out to my car with me to help.

He was putting Stuff in the back of the car while I loaded the girls in the front and as I took the car seat out of the basket, I noticed the CD that I'd thrown in the bottom of the cart wasn't in a bag. I did a quick mental flashback and didn't remember seeing it cross the beam at the checkout stand, so I was pretty sure that I'd walked out without paying for it.
Immediately, options began running through my head:

  • say nothing, stick it in the car quickly before Mr. Nice Clerk catches me, go to hell
  • leave it in the cart, claim I don't know where it came from, hope Mr. Nice Clerk doesn't notice
  • take it back in and pay for it, unload both girls from car, spend another 45 minutes at crowded store with Christmas shoppers

If Mr. Nice Clerk hadn't been right next to me, I probably would have taken my chances in hell. That last option was particularly unappetizing. Ultimately, I just couldn't bring myself to allow the store to be out that six dollars when I could return the CD to Mr. Nice Clerk easily - because I'm sure it would have sent the whole chain into the red and the country at large would be further mired in recession - so I sucked in a breath, picked up the CD, turned back to Mr. Nice Clerk and thrust it at him. "Would you mind taking this back into the store with you? I'm afraid it fell under the car seat and I walked out without paying for it. I don't really want to go back in so I'll just skip it."

He looked at me, looked down at the Johnny Mathis CD I was poking toward his abdomen and rolled his eyes, "Eh... keep it."

This flew in the face of all my options. I felt he must have misunderstood. "But... but... I... didn't pay for it!" I sputtered.

"Yeah. ...Don't worry about it," he said, and refused to take it out of my hands.

I was still sure he didn't understand, "I mean, it didn't get rung up at the check out... I don't want to steal it."

He laughed at me and said, "You know what? Those things come in every year and no one
ever buys them. If you don't take it, I'm sure it'll still be here in January. If you like... [pauses to look down at CD in bewilderment of my musical choices] Johnny Mathis... you should have it," He took the CD I kept obsessively trying to put in his hands from me and walked around the cart to the open hatch of the car and put it in a bag, "Merry Christmas."

I didn't know what else to do, so I stammered "thank you" and got in the car.

So much for nostalgia, now every time I listen to It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, I'm going to feel felonious.

If I do go to hell for thievery, I'll at least be in
good company.