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I held my mother’s hand as we approached the impressive façade of the eight-story building, my older sister excitedly chattering about the dress she was going to buy to wear at her junior high school graduation. Located in downtown Brooklyn, Abraham &Strauss was a well-known department store with floors and floors of the finest merchandise.
Taking the elevator to the eighth floor, we entered a paradise for book lovers! Wall-to-wall books…and in between…tables and tables of books. Admonishing me to stay there and find something to read, my mother and sister left for the dress department.
I know you are probably shocked and horrified that any mother would leave a nine-year old girl alone in a department store in New York City. Looking back on the experience, I’m also surprised that she did…but it was another time…over 50 years ago…and people felt a lot safer, even though perhaps they weren’t.
So I wandered around, happy as a clam (are clams happy?), picking up this book and that book and just reveling in the ecstasy of having so many books at my disposal. I finally choose LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott, one of my favorites. I sat down on the floor and proceeded to read the entire book from cover to cover. When I am engrossed in a book, the world outside of the book ceases to exist for me. Is it that way for you? I had no watch…time stood still for me until I finished the last page and closed the book. And crawled out of my quiet little cubbyhole under one of the tables.
THERE SHE IS!!!! I saw my mother and sister running towards me. Several policemen, uniformed store security guards and sales clerks were with them. Later, my mother explained that after several hours of shopping for my sister’s dress, they returned to the book department, but couldn’t find me (I am very petite and at age nine, I was pretty small…I had found a little cubbyhole under one of the tables). Store personnel and the police were called in to help search throughout the entire store because they believed I had walked away from the book department. Walk away from a book department? It’s obvious they didn’t know the real Vivian!
I’m sure my mother never did that again…but at no time during the experience was I frightened or concerned. I didn’t think I was lost in the store…I was lost in the world of the book…and I was very happy there. And, although I wasn’t afraid that day, the fear of getting lost or being separated from a loved one is one of the most common concerns of young children. Here’s another great children’s picture book that you can read with your child that will help open a discussion about this issue.
DON’T WORRY, I’LL FIND YOU written and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines
Sarah and her mother go to the mall to buy Sarah some new clothes. The little girl insists on taking her doll, Abigail. After a long and tiring morning of visiting lots of stores and trying on lots of clothing, Sarah puts Abigail on a chair while she tries on shoes and forgets to take her doll when she and her mother leave the store. Passing a toy store, Sarah remembers that she has left her doll behind and she hurries back to the shoe store without telling her mother. Although she finds Abigail right away, she soon realizes that she has lost her mother. Remembering her mother’s instructions to “stay put”, Sarah goes back to the toy store and waits there. Meanwhile, Sarah’s mother has been checking all the stores and soon mother and child are reunited.
I’m sure Sarah’s mother was tempted to scold her daughter, not only for walking away on her own, but also for bringing the doll, even though she had been advised by her mother to leave the doll at home. Instead, she chose to commend her daughter for obeying her instructions to stay where she was in case she got lost. In the future, Sarah will be more likely to follow other rules she is given and, even though she was frightened, she was able to keep some amount of control in the situation by following her mother’s instructions.
Three great tips to talk about during the discussion with your child after reading the story:
1. Your child should know his name, address and phone number. Teach your child your first name also.
2. If you get separated, STAY PUT!
3. Seek help from a uniformed person or a woman with children.
Stop by tomorrow for one last “getting separated” picture book suggestion and a couple of fun-filled activities.
WE ALL NEED A CHEERING COMMITTEE AND PARENTS ARE A CHILD’S MOST IMPORTANT FANS!