By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell
I will never forget that day in December 1988. I had just given birth to my son—my first child—the month before. It was grocery shopping day, so I bundled him up, then I bundled me up, then we scooted to the car and I locked Richard securely into his car seat. Just that morning, my husband Stan had warned me to never allow the car to idle for too long with the heat on and the baby inside. He said that the exhaust could build up to a dangerous level. Needless to say, I took his warning very seriously.
I sang to Richard the whole way to the Super Fresh at Builder’s Square Shopping Center (now known as Marlton Crossing Shopping Center where there’s a Burlington Coat Factory, a HomeGoods and a Michael’s).
Once there, I parked the car, got out and locked my door. As a careful new mother, I methodically locked all the doors to protect Richard until I got to his door. I happily counted them as I locked them, “One, two, three, four! Four????” I’d locked my child in the car! With the engine on! And the heat running! I did exactly what Stan told me NOT to do! About one second later, Richard started to cry. Then I started to cry.
I hated to leave him there all alone, but there wasn’t a sole around, and I had to do something! (This was 1988, and I didn’t own a cell phone.) So I ran into the Super Fresh and blubbered all over the Guest Services lady who refused to call the police! I ran back to the car, and soon after, a man (an angel?) came out of the store and told me he’d used the pay phone to call the police. As soon as the police got there, they did their thing to unlock my door, and we all lived happily ever after.
But that night, I left Richard with my husband so I could go to the mall and buy the biggest keychain I could find. I came across a big gold-tone hoop and bought it immediately because I could just slip it over my wrist like a bracelet, as soon as I took my key out of the ignition.
Richard is 26 now, and doesn’t seem any worse for the wear. He graduated college, supports himself, and is a contributing member of society. I still use that giant hoop, and not a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me why I carry such an unusually large keychain. And when they ask, I think of Baby Richard and I smile.
Do you have a crazy-new-mom story? Please make me feel a little less alone in my early innocence and share it in the comments section below. Thanks!