I'm not sure this is truly my first childhood memory. I'm not even completely convinced it's a memory at all. It may be a story I heard so many times that my brain has tricked me into thinking it's something I actually remember. But since I can't pinpoint any other event, I'll go with it.
|From the Ames Tribune. this wasn't our actual Arlans, but I sure do remember|
it looking like this.
Except it didn't work out that way this time. I went up the rack like always and burrowed into the clothes like always, but Mom didn't come by like always. I waited and waited and waited, thinking she must have gotten particularly interested in some outfit. Finally, I got bored and stuck my head out to see how far away she was. Only she wasn't there. I looked both directions, but the aisle was empty. I crept out, a little tickle of fear starting in my throat. I walked to the end of the aisle and called her name. No answer. Now the tickle was becoming an ache. I went to the next aisle over and called her name a little more insistently. Still nothing. I ran back to the aisle on the other side of where I'd been, screaming her name now. No one there either.
Soon I'm careening around the store screaming, "Mom! Mom! Mom!", tears running down my cheeks. I'm quite certain by this time that, forgetting they had me with them, they've gone back to the car to go home and I would never see them again. Finally, an Arlans employee stops me and asks if I'm lost. She takes me to the office and asks my name. I figured I was in trouble for hiding from Mom and I know when I'm in trouble I'm called Joseph Dean, so I tell them that's my name. They get on the intercom and ask for the parents of Joseph Dean to come to the front office.
My parents, who had been looking for me almost as long as I had been looking for them, figure out quickly that I'm the Joseph Dean in the office. After all, what are the odds of there being two lost Joe's in one small town store? They come get me and I get to go home with them instead of living out my days at Arlan's.