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  • Carissa Tarkington

Black Keds and childhood trauma in a Wal-Mart bathroom.




My mother has always been a lighthearted jokester. She has always enjoyed trying to do simple tricks or jump scares (as my son has told me they are called). Many, many years ago when I was around twelve, I lived in a very small town. Correction, I lived in the woods, outside of a small town. We had to travel to do any kind of shopping, and one day we were in a town not quite an hour away at a Wal-Mart.


This was before supercenters (yes, I’m that old) and the Wal-Mart we were at was not very big. My mother had to go to the bathroom, and I went with her. The bathroom was kind of weird. It had only one stall and a sink. So, my mother went into the stall, and I went to the other side of the room and leaned against the wall.


That day I was wearing black Keds (shoes) and some simple jeans. It was a pretty normal thing to wear for the times. A woman came in silently, wearing the same black Keds as me and very similar jeans. She stood very close to the stall, waiting. I said nothing to her, and she said nothing to me.


My mother must have thought it was me standing near the stall, and I do not believe she heard the woman come in. She thought it would be funny to scare me, so she preceded to reach under the stall and grab the woman’s ankles while making a noise that is hard to describe in text. It was almost like a “goochie goochie goo” you would coo to a baby while tickling her stomach but was much louder and harsher. The poor woman whose legs my mother grabbed had no idea what to do. She jumped up in the air and kind of did this little jig with her feet, but she said nothing.


My mother assumed she had really gotten me as I stood there too shocked to react. Since no one said anything, my mother did it again with the same “goochie goochie goo.” The poor woman jumped again, clearing disturbed by what was happening to her in a woman’s restroom. I finally found my voice and choked out, “Mom, that’s not me.” There was silence for a few moments, and then my mother said, “Oh.”


She quickly finished her business and walked out of the stall with her head down. Without looking at the woman, my poor mother said, “Sorry.” My mother didn’t even wash her hands or look to see that her daughter was following her. She just hurried out of the bathroom as that poor, scandalized woman looked at me. I shrugged at her and ran, catching up with my mother who now had a shopping cart. She shopped as though nothing had happened, and I didn’t say a word about it until a few years later. She acts like it didn’t happen, but we both know it did.

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