Hard to believe she might be …
“They have plenty of money. They want you to take these things.” That is what my mother said when I told her not to take the jelly jars and sugar packets from the table in the restaurant.
Diane and I took my parents for a weekend in Boston some years ago, surprising them with tickets to see Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca in the waning years of their marvelous careers. My parents loved them from the days of Your Show of Shows, and they did not disappoint.
As a further surprise, we had reservations at The Colonnade, an upscale luxury hotel near the theater. My parents were thrilled, effusive with praise for the room and its ‘trappings’. We met the next morning where Mom, elegantly dressed (as usual) and ecstatic to be having breakfast in a hotel, had pancakes, which she loved. She also ordered a blueberry muffin for the road. “This place is wonderful. I’ll bet this costs a lot.” Just as we were leaving the dining area, I noticed that she was loading her large handbag with sugar packets and small, unopened jars of jellies from the table.
“What are you doing, Mom?”
“These jellies are delicious and just the right size. I’ll take some home. And we always can use the sugar.”
“No. They belong to the hotel, and they are for the next guests that will be sitting here.”
She chirped “They want you to take them. Besides, they have plenty of money.”
“Mom, that’s stealing.”
“Oh, get off.” It was a common refrain that Mom used to dismiss us. We left the dining room, my mother standing tall, the rest of us looking for a place to hide. She seemed to be struggling with her now heavier handbag but, undaunted, she moved along briskly.
I don’t think my mother was a compulsive stealer. Except for restaurant table things. “Mom, have you ever taken silverware? Or napkins?”
She looked at me and with a pregnant pause, incredulous, and replied, “Oh, get off.”
I remember the day she wanted to go to the mall where a newly opening store was offering a gift certificate if you bought something over one hundred dollars. She bought a dress and, in a flash, asked for her gift certificate.
Diane said, “Your Mom came for the certificate. She’ll take the dress back tomorrow.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“It’s not her style.” Mom called the next day asking for a ride to the mall where, as predicted, she returned the dress.
“Mom, did you return the certificate?”
“Oh, no. They want you to have that.”
Kleptomania, the syndrome of compulsive stealing, is not uncommon. There is a range; some compulsive, some impulsive. I would like to think that my Mom’s ‘lifting’ of things was somewhere in between. Not thinking beyond the ‘they have plenty of money’ and ‘they want you to do that’, she had us perplexed.
There was no changing her mind. Once made up, it was “Oh, get off.”