The Memory Dump
I teach a Bible class to foreign exchange students, and last month I went through the Ten Commandments. In the middle of my explanation of the Eighth Commandment, my mind pulled out a memory from about 45 years ago. I read somewhere recently that the reason we have so few memories of our early childhood is that our brains do a “memory dump” at around five years old. That’s why only a few memories of anything prior to age five remain. Some of the memories that survived the “dump” are of just mundane, everyday moments. I remember my mom giving me a bath in a kitchen sink. Mom says it’s impossible that I could remember that because I wasn’t even 18 months old at the time, but I stand firm. I can see the sink, the faucet, and the counter top in my mind, and I even remember feeling that the kitchen sink was an unusual place for mom to be bathing me.
Shoplifter at age four
One of my earliest memories (that remains uncontested by my parents) happened when I was probably four years old, and is anything but mundane. My dad drove me to the Tiny Giant grocery store to pick up a carton of ice cream to take back home as a special treat for our family. We got out of the car and walked into the store. Dad picked out the flavor,and we walked up to the counter to check out. Now, what do store owners place on the shelves at the front counter, at the eye level of every young potential felon? Gum, candy, mints, toys – all manner of temptations for young children. The Bazooka Bubblegum danced in front of my eyes and begged to go home with me. I selected one and dropped in my pocket. Dad and I walked hand in hand back to the car, and I got buckled in to the (gasp!!!) FRONT seat of the car. I nonchalantly pulled out my gum, Bazooka Gum!!!! with the beautiful cartoon wrapper. I couldn’t read the cartoon, but I remember how thrilled I was with the pretty colors, and boy was that gum delicious!
Saved from a life of crime
My dad looked over at me, stared for a moment while I chewed, and then asked, “Did you pay for that gum?” What in the world did ‘pay for’ mean, I wondered? I looked back at him, and said, “Nooooo.” His face got stern, he pointed at me, and stated, “You STOLE that candy. Take this money back in there, and you tell that man that you’re sorry you STOLE that candy.” I knew he was serious, so I reached for the door, and began my walk of shame, all alone, back into the Tiny Giant while Dad sat in the car and watched me. When I got to the counter, I peered up the store owner, and stammered it out, exactly as my daddy had told me to, “I’m ssssooooorrryy I stole this gum.” I handed him the nickle or whatever it cost, and got out of there as quickly as I could. I jumped back in the car, and dad and I never spoke of it again.
I still can’t pass that store, and it’s been several different stores since then, without remembering my close call with a life of crime.
No such thing as a free lunch
Years later, I worked at McDonalds. Let me tell you, McDonald’s french fries never ever lose their draw. They are so incredibly tempting, especially when they are hot and salty. My co-workers and even managers regularly stole fries, burgers, shakes, and drinks, and even sneaked stolen food to their friends. I just couldn’t do it. My parents had ruined me! When I was tempted to snatch a fresh fry or two when I walked past the fry bin, I remembered Bazooka Bubblegum, and the temptation fled away as quickly as it came. I ate my share and more of french fries while I worked there, but I promise you, I paid for every one of them!
So, Mom and Dad, that was a parenting win! My brush with crime was short-lived thanks to your old-fashioned, call-out-sin-for-what-it-is parenting style!