The mall was crowded. I was maybe 5 years old. And I was lost.
If you’ve ever been lost in the mall as a little boy you know true terror. I had somehow drifted from my mother. I had been distracted by—of all things—a magic show.
I am a middle-aged man now, but I can still remember the magician’s performance with startling clarity. He wore a polyester tux, bright red, with a pink Travolta shirt. One look at that tux and I left my mother’s side.
I stood among others my age in the meager audience watching his magic act. We were all wide eyed, smelling of little-kid sweat, with runny noses.
Then, suddenly the show was over and I was lost in a shopping mall with thousands of strangers moving all around me.
What was I supposed to do NOW? Should I go look for my mother? Should I stay put? Should I ask the guy in polyester tux to saw me in half? A kid’s brain doesn’t think logically.
So I went searching for my mother,
which was the absolute worst thing I could have done because this only made me more lost. I wandered through shoe stores, clothing stores, Sears, and a candle store that smelled like a sickening mixture of pumpkin pie and Chanel No. 5.
Finally, mercifully, a tall man in a blue uniform with an eight-point cap and a golden badge found me. He said, “Are you lost?”
I began to cry.
He was an enormous policeman, nearly 14 feet tall. He squatted to my eye level. He smiled and said, “Where’re your parents?”
I cried even harder.
“Can you tell me your mom’s name?”
I tried to remember my mother’s name. But I was so scared that I couldn’t think of my mother’s Christian name. What WAS her first name? I usually just called her Mama or Ma’am. I upgraded from crying into…