I am a terrible liar and law breaker. I can’t for the life of me do either without a terrible guilty conscience. In fact, the worst trouble I’ve ever been in was because I naively obeyed a police officer. I will expound on that one no further. As a little girl, having been taught never to litter, I observed this rule with grave trepidation. One day, as my Aunt Denny was taking me across the street, I dropped a gumball. I tried to go after it, but it rolled down the side walk in the opposite direction of where we were going. I pulled away, but she had a firm grip and dragged me protesting loudly across the intersection.
Later that afternoon, when I got home, I was fearful that the law had observed my trespass. In my colorful imagination, the sheriff was coming to get me. Not aware of my terrible crime, my Grandmother tried to persuade me to go out and play. Fearful of my impending arrest, I refused to leave the safety of the walls around me. A little while later, the phone rang. I bullied past everybody to answer it, fearful that cops were telephoning. Finally, I was sure that the sheriff could see right inside our front windows, so despite the fact it was only mid afternoon, I pulled the curtains. I told my grandma that it was too bright out. She peshawed this and opened them again. When she caught me belly crawling around the house where there were windows, she became suspicious that something was wrong. At last, I confessed my terrible crime and was assured that no sheriff was staking out the property.
That said, when I booked our motel on Expedia, I ran into an all too familiar problem, the occupancy law. In other countries, you can jam 5 people onto a speeding motorcycle. Our entire family was jammed into the back seats of a taxi in India. There is no occupancy law anywhere around there. You may stuff people into buses until they are hanging out the sides if you wish. Here, however, there are fire codes and other regulatory laws. No motel will allow 5 kids in a room with 2 adults. For me, I feel a lot safer having us all together. For rules, well, a family our size is supposed to rent two rooms. Being extremely short on money for this trip, I decided to challenge the prude in my brain and push into the gray area just a wee bit.
As I began my life of crime, I almost couldn't’t take the guilt. It was a new girl orientating at the motel desk. She quite obviously didn’t know what she was doing. It was a cinch checking in except for my terrible conscience. The Tourniquet song based on an Edgar Allen Poe story about a guilty killer began to resonate in my brain. I could hear them screaming “I admit the deed!” I shook my head and began to haul in luggage.
The shopping was spectacular and I had a wonderful time. The older boys were off with their father on his business excursion. I had the whole day to shop with Sock Fashion Expert. We went all over having incredible fun except for that terrible guilt of the gray area. Super Catman did very well, as did Moonbeam. They were quite valiant as they were dragged to and from clearance sections. At the Salvation Army, Super Catman was quite pleased to purchase a Spiderman “Sit and Spin” with his own funds. It was a steal at $2.50. Even Sock Fashion Expert was thrilled to have found Italian leather boots for only $5 there. When at last I had exhausted the little ones sufficiently, we returned to our motel. My great bribe to Super Catman was to go swimming if he could be good in the stores.
At the pool, I met several unsupervised adolescents. One of them informed me that she “liked to talk a lot”. Taking advantage of this, as I watched Super Catman squirting his Super Soaker (his other Salvation Army find); I asked her where she was from. In no time I learned that she was a home schooled kid from a family of soon to be 6 kids. Her mother was in the hospital having a baby. She was from a town near me. Being a home schooled kid like my own, I was very curious about her family.
Being on an extremely limited budget, most of our meals consisted of dollar value menu sandwiches, lunch meat sandwiches from the grocery store and the Pizza Hut $6.99 Large One Topping Special. Despite the low grade of foods, they all tasted good and I determined within myself that it was a fun adventure to try and eat as cheaply as possible. None of the kids seemed to mind. I had also packed along a huge bag of apples, bottles of water and whole grain low in sugar muffins. This once again reminded me of Aunt Menny. Aunt Menny had 5 kids; home schooled them and ate weird low in sugar foods. At the time I thought she was Loony Tunes, now I have become her.
As we ate our sale pizza, an episode of Andy Griffith began to replay in my mind. It’s the one where the hotel owner calls Sheriff Andy on Mr. Darling, who is a hick from the back country. All night long, a full band plays from the motel room. Each time the motel owner goes in to check on Mr. Darling, the room is empty. Sheriff Andy confronts him and tells him that all that music couldn't have come out of the jug he was blowing. Mr. Darling tells him every man is entitled to his own opinion. In the end Sheriff Andy discovers all Mr. Darling’s boys keep climbing up and down a tree outside the motel room window. Then Sheriff Andy takes them all home to his house and they spend the night there and play music together. Something seemed vaguely familiar about this episode and once again, I felt terribly guilty.
As I laid there on the bed the Spider Man “Sit and Spin” continued to play “you’re a real Spidey Friend!” it said. “You’re making me dizzy” it said. On and on it went as the kids took turns playing with it. “That’s it!” Super Catman exclaimed, “I’m flipping you off!” Silence and dread overtook me. “I break one law”, I moaned “and my kids go to pot”. Now my seven year old is flipping people off! “Mom”, said Sock Fashion Expert, “he’s flipping the switch on the Sit and Spin off”, she explained. “He’s not giving anybody the bird.” I was temporarily relieved. She had a disgusted look on her face. Not because I thought her brother was giving somebody the finger, because she had just discovered her Salvation Army Italian leather boot find was specially made for somebody who had one leg longer than the other.
The next morning, I saw the talkative home school girl up in the front motel lobby. She was excited to tell me her mom had had a baby girl. I asked her how many boys and how many girls there were now. She got a horrible look on her face and glanced over at the front desk lady. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. The front desk lady, oblivious to any of the conversation, continued playing on her laptop computer as she half listened to “The Good Morning Show”. The girl finally spoke. “Uhh…. I have 4 sisters now and one brother.” Then she was quick to say “but we also have a boy cat and my brother is home with the boy cat”. “OK” I thought, something is fishy with this story. She’s just as bad of a liar as I am. I smiled and nodded. Not two minutes later, a little boy came charging around the corner. “Dad says you have to come now!” he demanded in his best commanding voice. Her face turned pale and I turned away smirking. I guess there’s other big families out there who live a little bit in the gray when it comes to the occupancy law at motels.
“Can you take something back to the Salvation Army?” Sock Fashion Expert wanted to know. I almost couldn't’t bear that idea, but told her to call them and find out the policy. That day and the next were a lot like the first. We had a wonderful time shopping at thrift stores and clearance sections. We ate sale pizza for dinner. I felt guilty, but not as guilty. Perhaps I was becoming calloused to my crime. On Sunday we went to church and the worship was wonderful. I could feel God’s presence and I knew everything was going to be OK. On the way home, we got dollar burgers and Super Catman told his oldest brother how to pick up Mc Donald’s Chicks. “Just tell her you want to order a “Mc Chickee” he informed him. Everybody laughed. We all had a wonderful time in the big city. No resolution exists for me about the gray area at motels, but I supposed it was better not to dwell on this.