Sunday, April 11, 2021
April 11, 2021

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Everybody has a Story: Pilfering preacher’s kid learns lesson

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It is said that Sunday’s child is full of grace. I was born not only Sunday’s child but an Easter Sunday child. A few minutes after birth, I was placed in the arms of my father, a preacher man.

Yes, I was born a preacher’s kid, and being a P.K. brought, along with the title, rules and regulations other kids didn’t seem to have to follow. I suppose it was perceived by others that I was an extension of my father’s ministry and nothing short of angel’s wings should have been affixed to those little shoulders of mine – a heavy burden to carry for a curious, spontaneous, precocious child.

We lived in what was commonly called a “Heights house” on Southeast Third Street here in Vancouver, where my father attended a Billy Graham crusade in 1948. He enrolled in Multnomah Bible School in 1950, and my mother took a job working nights at Nabisco in support of his endeavor.

We were poor and toys and candy were sparse. We had lots of kids in the neighborhood, and I suppose they weren’t much better off than us, but hours of playtime and make-believe curtailed any thoughts of deprivation. Our neighbors, the Browns, had a daughter my age and she, unlike many others, had dolls, a dollhouse, even a little convertible pedal car. Things we got to play with when she was in the mix.

I was often left to my own devices. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop and, looking back, the devil and I must have built a gargantuan workshop together.

One day, when the Browns weren’t home, I “borrowed” that little pedal car. Yes, the devil made me do it! I proceeded to pedal myself as fast as I could down Third. All was going splendidly until I was met by a car – a real car, a big car – just around the corner. I hadn’t envisioned that such an encounter was even possible. At 31/2, why should I? I don’t think I knew what dying was, or even what being squashed was, but something inside told me I was in serious trouble.

My best effort to rectify the predicament was to shriek at the top of my lungs, wet my pants and sit frozen, entrapped in that cute little stolen convertible, face to face with a real-sized car.

The other driver, obviously perturbed, exited her car and pulled me, my tear-stained face and my ill-gotten gains over to the side of the road. She spoke some words, instructive at worst and disapproving at most, and we were both once again on our way. And so my first lesson, and well learned too, about the downfalls of thievery.

Between the Browns’ house and ours was a coal bin divided in half for common use. At the bottom of each bin was a little door that swung in, not out. I was tiny for a 4-year-old and so not the least surprised to find I could crawl through that little door to explore what lay inside that bin. Once inside, however, I was shocked to find not a fun place to play but a very dark, smelly place that was impossible to get out of. I readily appraised the situation and did what I did best: shrieked at the top of my lungs, wet my pants and awaited my fate.

Luckily, Mrs. Brown heard my cries and lifted me out of the black hole. I received a spanking from Mother, a rare midweek bath and a well-learned lesson about the pitfalls of breaking and entering.

Sometimes my mischief wasn’t of the common kind. One day my mother had shopping to do, and I accompanied her but was left at some point alone in the car along with previous purchases. I saw she had bought a candy bar, something I had rarely tasted but had seen Mother eat before. Hmm, just me and that candy bar, sitting side by side, all alone in that little Nash. It was enclosed in a blue box with a miniature drawer, and, lucky me, it was divided into small sections! I’d eat two sections and put the box back in the sack and she’d never know!

Hurriedly, before Mother came back, I gulped down two sections of the candy bar, not getting to savor the smooth chocolatey sapidity of the morsel. Time was of the essence!

My brief encounter with fine chocolate was short-lived. And in good time I was exposed as a candy thief because, you see, it was a laxative contained in that cute little box. Wetting my pants was the least of my problems. Tears weren’t going to save me nor shrieking at the top of my lungs.

And what of the lesson I learned? P.K. or not, if trouble lurked around the corner, I was sure to find it.


Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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