The first time I was locked out of a car I was 8 years old and on top of a mountain in Montana. My mom and I had been whisked from Idaho to Montana by her friend Joan. It was 1979.
This was one of the occasions when my mom was suicidal. Joan — who had a good sense of humor — said, “if you’re going to kill yourself, you might as well go to Montana first.”
This was my first road trip with my mom. In addition to all of her other diagnoses, she was agoraphobic and had panic attacks in cars. Somehow the exhilaration of not killing herself made her brave enough for a drive to Montana.
I had a denim purse, and probably about $20 my grandparents gave me for souvenirs, some of which I spent at a gift shop at Glacier National Park. And I left my purse there, somehow… I was 8, I swear I wasn’t drunk.
We drove past weeping walls and cloudy blue glacial lakes, until we got to a peak, with a view of a glacier.
That glacier is probably mostly gone now. Glacier National Park no longer has glaciers to speak of.
There was a visitor’s center of some kind. I have no memory of what we did there. I’m sure there was some interpretive info about ice ages and ice dams and floods… the forces that carved the landscape I knew.
We went back to the station wagon as the sun was setting, and the keys were locked in.I was a little scared, but mostly I was exhilarated by this unexpected adventure. Joan got a clothes hanger from some RV nearby and was able to sneak it in and unlock the door.
That was when I realized I didn’t have my purse. We drove back down the mountain in the waning light and stopped again at the old-west-style gift shop. And they had my purse, but the person who turned it in had taken the last $8 from my wallet.
It was clearly a child’s purse, and they took the time to hand it over to the clerk. But they took my $8. This is what I’ve learned to expect from life. Yes. I made a mistake and left my denim purse on the ground outside a tourist shop in Montana. It was my fault at the end of the day… but still, someone chose to take my $8.