Monday, March 8, 2010

He Slimed Me - Childhood Department Store-y #1

It was Christmastime in Raleigh and I was seven years old. I had three older brothers, all six and seven years older than me, and a no-nonsense mom who needed to get some Christmas shopping done. Sometime after supper, she announced she was headed to King’s Department Store.

“I wanna go!” we all pleaded, and despite her usual protestation of “I ain’t takin’ sixty-eight kids to the store with me!” (it was always "sixty-eight" with Mom, for some reason), we all climbed into the olive green 1971 Ford Torino and headed to King’s. ...

Once inside the store, Mom told us kids to go entertain ourselves and leave her alone because of course she was going to be buying presents for us. “And one of you watch your sister!”

This prompted my three loving brothers to exclaim, “Aw, man! I don’t want her! I had her last time!” But I guess my brother Bob had sympathy for me and accompanied me to the toy department.

Now, my mother would never allow us kids to have Silly Putty. “I don’t want that gunk stickin’ to the carpet!” she’d say every time the subject came up. So naturally, Silly Putty was the first thing we’d always want to play with at other kids’ homes or if there just happened to be an open package in the toy store.

But this was 1976, and Mattel had devised brand new ways to torment my mother. Recently added to the list of toys forbidden in our home or near our mother’s carpet was Slime, the sticky, lime green goo that was so perverse it was sold in miniature plastic trash cans.

Eureka! There was an open trash can of Slime on the toy shelf at King’s, and Bob immediately went for it. Since he had already laid claim to it, I guess I must have turned my attention to the search for a Baby Alive or a mysterious Magic 8 Ball or something. I just remember standing there in the middle of the toy aisle when suddenly I felt this nasty, cold, wet substance on the top of my head.

Well, I didn’t know what the heck it was, so I freaked out and squealed and did what any grossed out seven-year-old girl would do: I wiggled and tried to shake it off!

Well, that only made matters worse, as the Slime just oozed all down deep into the roots of my previously pretty, fine, blonde tresses.

“Auwghhhhhhhhh!” I was shocked! Shocked that Bob, my currently least-hated brother, would do this to me. Bob, who had just shown such mercy by pitying me enough to hang out with me when the other two brothers bolted.

He said he just intended to put the Slime there on top of my head for a second and then take it off, but the fact that I freaked and shook my head made removing it quite impossible. And now, now I was humiliated.

I didn’t know what to do. We had been instructed by my mother NOT to go find her. And on top of everything else, I was now terrified that the store would make us pay for the ruined product. I sure didn’t have any money, and it’s not like my mom, with a family of six, had any to spare for a ruined product that wasn't even allowed in our house anyway.

Well, by the mercy of the gods, it being winter, I had a coat with me. I held my coat up over my head (trying as best as I could not to slime the coat, too) and frantically ran out the door while hiding my face. I was afraid I’d get caught for shoplifting.

As if I wasn’t traumatized and guilt-ridden enough already, to get to the car, I would have to run the gauntlet past the Salvation Army bell-ringer. He saw me and called out, “Hey, I see you! You can’t hide from me under that coat!”

After that, I have only a vague memory of leaning over the kitchen sink that night to endure a very thorough hair-washing by a very pissed off mom.

And despite my fears, Santa still came to visit me that year. But he never brought me a can of Slime.

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