I don’t remember how old I was the first time it happened. I couldn’t have been more than ten years old. We were in Philadelphia — my mother, my younger sister, and I — visiting my great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. For my sister and me, it was our first time traveling that far from home, and our first time in a city like Philadelphia. Everything amazed us, from the size of the buildings, downtown to the narrow little houses on my great great-grandfather’s street, with no yards to speak of and no space between them; so different from our suburban home back in Augusta, GA.
Even going shopping was different. Instead of driving to the store, my mom pushed her grandfather’s folding cart a few blocks to a store a few blocks away, and we followed her. The store was a wonder unto itself; on the outside a rowhouse like the one my great grandfather lived in, but on the inside there were long, narrow shelves holding food, toys, and other items we’d never seen before.
Our mother had told us time and time again not to touch anything whenever we went shopping, but we couldn’t help it this time. We picked up toys and candy and other items, exclaiming to each other to “come look at this.” Until it happened.