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Friday, October 10, 2014

That Time that Mrs. Lo Almost Shoplifted

THAT TIME THAT MRS. Lo ALMOST SHOPLIFTED – it was accidental, of course.  I left the grocery store, lifted up my giant Disney tote, and there they were:  a small tub of mozzarella balls and a can of tomato paste.  My first reaction was horror, and my 10-year-old son picked up on it right away.  “What’s the matter, Mommy?” asked Michael, looking at me with his big, bright blue, innocent eyes. 

            Hmmm, how exactly do I explain this?  Mommy accidentally shoplifted?  I think I made a giant mistake?  How about:  “Mommy forgot to pay for some items …”
            My child doesn’t mince words:  “You STOLE from Price Chopper???”  This would be one of the infinitesimally few times that being a lawyer comes in handy in the world of Motherhood.  “No, no, larceny requires a mens rea, which is to say an intent to deprive another person of their property …”
            My child was clearly not impressed.  There he stood, in his Catholic School uniform with his arms folded, with a look that said, OK, Mommy, cut the lawyer ((CENSORED)) and fix this.
            And we did.  We were very late to our next appointment but we went back in and waited on line to explain what happened, and to pay.  The cashier really didn’t need the whole backstory, she just wanted to keep the line moving, and rightly so.  I had my items and my receipt. I was trying to explain how the items got underneath my Disney bag but she was not all the interested.  Is this how it all starts for a petty thief, I asked myself?  Just one can of tomato paste and your whole life goes downhill?  As I was waiting, I thought of my very first jury trial client.
            I was 25 years old and a freshly minted attorney at the Legal Aid Society in a county south of here.  I was waiting for the “perfect” jury trial.  In other words, someone with such a bad case and such a long record that the prosecutor would not offer a plea bargain.  Someone who was going to jail for a year no matter what. 
            His name was “George” (no, it wasn’t, but you knew that).  He was charged with stealing a pair of shoes.  I could wrap myself in his rap sheet many, many times.  It was filled with petit larceny convictions and arrests.  106 of them to be exact.  “Listen, ma’am, I will plead guilty, I just want my three hots and a cot,” he had said.  As a favor to me, he allowed me to try the case to get experience, and I agreed to teach him to read.  (I had a reading group at the local jail, I read stories to them out loud, after work, and then we did Hooked on Phonics). 
            Your first jury trial is terrifying, and I was a person who did local theatre in New York City and took some acting classes at NYU; but nothing can prepare you for your first jury trial.  I stood up in front of the jury and promptly forgot my own name.  George was convicted (not because I forgot my name but because he was guilty).  I gave him a copy of “Call of the Wild,” the book I was reading to my clients, as a parting gift.  He wrote me to tell me he finished reading the book in jail and went on to another book on the reading list I gave him.
            Flash forward 25 years, to the grocery store.  “Mommy, you are daydreaming again!” said Michael, as he poked me.  “Pay for your tomatoes and cheese.”  I did.  And I said a silent prayer for George and all the clients in my reading group.  Did he mend his ways, or move on to other accessories?  I will never know.
            But in the end, that’s all we can do.  You can take, take, take from the world or give, give, give.  When you decide to be a Giver, it becomes a habit you just can’t break.  Unfortunately, the same is true of the habit of Taking.  “Did you have any doubts Mommy would go back in and pay?”  I asked my son.  “No, I did not,” he said.  “You’re not a Thief, you’re my Mommy.”  And with that, I figured I must be doing something right.
            Let’s take a moment to say a prayer for those who do lose their way, and remember always:  There but for the grace of God go I.

            Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo (stay tuned for a special SUNDAY EDITION of the Mrs. Lo Blog tomorrow!) (Photo of the boys in 2009)