I hear the child’s voice and then I see them. The mother is crisply urban. With platinum white hair expensively snipped to look boyish, her heals go clickety clack on the glossy tiled floors of the shopping mall. “We forgot to pay for it.” The little girl, all pink, is clutching a Barbie book in her left hand. Her voice rings out, as she looks up at her mother. Mother grasps her right hand tighter, clickety clack she is walking faster, pulling the little girl behind her. I keep on looking at them, not because I care about the theft, but because I care about the little girl, who is flailing behind, the same pinched look of the mother now in her face.
That night I wonder, is the joy of getting something for nothing more than the joy of a book or looking up to your mother? I also wonder about my own ambivalence. I do not really care that they stole that much (it is Barbie after all, such a contaminated symbol, does she not deserve to be stolen?) If it was Winnie-the-Pooh or Alice in Wonderland, would I not have been outraged? Is that not why we have become who we are now: too much Barbie and too little Pooh bear?
Mostly my heart breaks for the little girl who, in order to stay connected to her mother, will have to take on her mother’s moral code which, as in the mother, will result in the same pinched expression on her face.