Bouncy Balls

This is part 2 of The Shopping Nightmare.

As my mother, aunt, cousins, and I walked through the echoing halls of the Middlesex Mall, I was relieved that poking, prodding and shopping had finally come to an end. I looed forward to going home, where I had already started to color the inside of a cardboard box to look like the solar system for a “Barbie Space Mission”.

I dreamed of all the stars (glow in the dark stickers), asteroids (rocks from the driveway) and comets (bouncy balls with streamers attached to them) as my eye happen to glimpse what I thought to be the most amazing site any six-year old could see. Before me stood a brand-new 25 cent machine, taller than a 10-year old, with a series of slides and levers that lead up to hundreds of sparkly, semi-transparent, super-bouncy rubbed balls. My eyes lit up and I ran towards the contraption. At that moment, I knew that one of these bouncy balls would have to be the “Sun” in my Barbie galaxy.

“Anyu, Anyu, can I please please please have a ball from the machine?”

My mother nodded and searched around her purse for change.

Aunt scoffed. “Vhy are you gonna vaste money, she has enough crap at home.”

“Eh, I buy her something from dah machine every time ve come here, it’s okay.”

“Vhat? You’re goink to spoil her!”

“But…but…” I stuttered.

My mother’s expression changed and she looked irritated, “Yah, vait a minute, you already have a rubber ball! Let’s go, Stephie.”

I could feel the tears welling up. “But…this one has a SMILIE FACE on it!”

My aunt looked at me sternly. “No junk for you, let’s go.”

This was more than I could take. I was a good girl! I tried on clothes and ate all my vegetables! I helped Nagymama water the petunias and I never talked during church! What had I done to deserve such a terrible punishment? I went into full, temper tantrum mode with the works: screaming, sobbing, flailing legs, pounding fists. Oh, it was hideous. I can still remember seeing my teenage cousins walking quickly in front of it, pretending they didn’t know us.

My aunt pointed and looked at my mother with an accusatory stare. “See? You already spoilt dah child. This is your fault.”

I continued to carry on, hugging the machine and begging, “I neeeeeed a sun because Nagymama sucked up the moon in the vaaaaacuum cleaner!”

“If you don’t stop crying, we’re going to leave you here!” my aunt yelled.

I looked at the bouncy ball machine. I looked at my family. Back at the bouncy ball machine. Back at my family.

“Come on Ildie, let’s go.” My aunt grabbed my mother by the arm, and started to walk away.

They only had to take about five steps before I ran as fast as I could and basically jumped on my mother. I grabbed the belt of her wool pea coat with full force, ripping the sewn buttons clear off.
“Oh, great, now look at vhat you did! I’m gonna be sewing all damned day, now.”

Unfortunately, the next part of that memory is completely gone. I can say for sure that either one of three things happened:

1 – My mother felt so guilty for scaring me that she went back and bought me the ball, and my aunt gave her heck about it.

2 – I didn’t get the ball, but my mom felt so guilty about it that she got it for me the next day, after my aunt left.

3 – I got distracted by ice cream or something and forgot about it.

UPDATE: My cousin confirmed that indeed, number 1 happened. I threw myself down in the mall’s front vestibule, my mom screamed. “I can’t handle it!”, went back, bought me the ball, and I quietly sobbed and sucked on it the entire ride home, as my aunt yelled at my mom for raising such a rotten child. My cousins thought we were all nuts and couldn’t wait to get home and play their new MC Hammer cassette tape.

Even thought the final details are a bit foggy, the experience made quite an impression on me, and led to a series of hilarious childhood nightmares. (To be continued).

Photo by Stephanie Berghaeuser