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I Lost My Innocence Right Outside The Corner Store.

Back in the 1970s, the world was a very different place and generally safer than it is today. Parents used to let their kids run around as long as they were home by dinner, or by nine, or whatever, and kids respected that. There were no cell phones, and although it was recommended that kids not talk to strangers, generally most strangers were totally fine.

When my sister and I used to visit our Grandma, one of our favorite things to do was walk two blocks to the corner store in order to pick up any random items that Grandma “needed” (milk, potato chips, gum…I’m pretty sure she came up with needed items specifically for our visits). Grandma used to give us an extra dollar or two so we could pick out one of the cheap toys that hung near the checkout stand.

Although most of those corner store visits have blended into a single big, blurry, generalized memory, there is one that my sister and I will never forget. Upon walking out of the store, purchases in hand, I glanced at the sidewalk and saw a twenty dollar bill laying there, illuminated by the sun. Back then, finding a twenty on the ground was something that never, ever happened: it would be comparable to finding a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk today. For a youngster especially, this was akin to winning the lottery. I remember looking around, not seeing anyone remotely nearby, and picking it up.

And then, because I wanted to make sure it was okay that we took it home, I decided to verify that the bill was indeed without an owner. I asked a man that happened to be walking up the sidewalk towards the store if the twenty belonged to him, and he said, “Yep, thanks.” He took it out of my hand and kept walking.

It only took a split second to have that perfect 20/20 hindsight of what had just happened. I stood there for a moment, stunned, making the tough realization that everyone in the world wasn’t one hundred percent honest. That experience altered my view of life just a little bit and has stuck with me, hard. Although I still tend to give people the benefit of the doubt through a pair of rose-colored glasses, there is usually a healthy sense of cynicism just underneath the surface, especially when it comes to people I don’t know well.

And my sister? Nearly five years my junior, she had more street smarts than I even then. Looking back, I think I should’ve let her hang onto that money. We would have made it back to Grandma’s house with it, for sure.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • randomsideizzie August 16, 2012, 7:37 am

    Strong lesson learned here.

    This reminds me of when my older brother and I were approached by a guy who wanted to give us his pocket change. This was in the 80s, still a time of general safety as you mentioned above, but still cautious of “stranger danger.” I don’t recall which one of us was the one to refuse the change, but we never took it. Looking back, I’m sure the guy just wanted to help out two skinny, shabby-dressed (we were pretty poor) kids by a convenience store. Though the parent in me now is glad we refused the money. 🙂

    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:34 pm

      Can’t say I blame you! 🙂

  • Momo Fali August 16, 2012, 7:40 am

    This makes me want to hunt him down and take his wallet.


    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:36 pm

      Guessing he was in his 20’s or 30’s back then (1976?). That would make him somewhere in the neighborhood of 55-65 now. I bet you could take him! GO! 🙂

  • megryansmom August 16, 2012, 8:40 am

    A$$ hole

    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:36 pm


  • Colleen August 16, 2012, 9:20 am

    I remember finding a $10 bill once. I learned that EVERYONE is friends with the kid who has money…until s/he doesn’t have money to buy everyone else candy anymore…

    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:37 pm

      Sad, isn’t it? 🙁

  • tracey August 16, 2012, 3:10 pm

    Evan found a $20 at Navy Pier last year. That kid looked left and right realllly quickly, and shoved that $ down into his pocket faster than you can spit.

    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:37 pm

      I always knew Evan was a genius.

  • Mrs4444 August 16, 2012, 6:34 pm

    I hate those innocence-stealing moments. I guess they’re part of life, but yuck.

    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:38 pm

      Yuck is right. Silver lining: made a good blog post…

  • Tara R. August 16, 2012, 8:46 pm

    What a jerk that guy was, stealing from a kid. A good, swift kick to the shins was called for.

    • Melisa August 16, 2012, 9:39 pm

      I know. I hope he has lost sleep over it, but I bet he hasn’t. 🙂

  • Patty August 23, 2012, 9:22 am

    That’s just awful! Who does that to kids?!