THE JAPANESE TEA GARDEN: The Great Gift Robbery


[Best read with the sound track of Mission Impossible running through your mind]

*** WARNING – My mother may not want to read this ***

Unfortunately, there is no statue of limitation when it comes to your mother. No, with a mother you can pay now or you will definitely pay later. Now, I suppose I could have never said anything and life would go on just the same as always but where is the fun in that? Besides being that I am now 48, I’m much bigger than my mom is and if she were to hit me with her slipper, it would most likely cause me to laugh rather than to scream as I would do when I was younger.

Two blocks up from my grand parent’s house, where we lived at the time, was Golden Gate Park. My friend and I had built a tree house way up in an old pine tree. I guess you really couldn’t call it a tree house as it was little more than a few old fence boards nailed to and across the limbs. Looking back on it now, I shudder at the thought of being way up in that tree and having one of those old rotten fence boards break and end up tumbling down to the ground bouncing off limbs of the tree during the descent. I would have surely died and if not immediately then from not having anyone around to help me, as I lay there injured on the ground.

One day up in the tree house with a kid from the neighborhood, who I will call Gerald only because I have forgotten his name after all these years. We concocted a plan to rob the Japanese Tea Garden gift house. Not robbing them of money, rather robbing them of what ever thing we thought was cool. The plan was simple “grab and run!” the whole key to this plan was the fact that Gerald and I some weeks earlier had dug a hole under the chain link fence in the back of the Japanese Tea Garden. This is how we accessed the Japanese Tea Garden after they had closed to fool around. The hole was only big enough for small people such as we to fit through and we knew that no adult would be able to follow us thru.

We carefully talked out our plan in the tree house. The Japanese Tea Garden gift house had three doors that were open during the day, one at each end and one big one in the front and normally the gift house was busy with tourists. We decided it would be best to grab items closest to the right side door as was only a few yards from the hole we dug. The plan was to find something we wanted and when I nodded we would run like hell out of the gift house with item in hand, dive into and through the hole the fence, run past the Rose garden, down the hill to our tree and climb to our tree house where we would celebrate our cunning achievement. Boy we were excited!

It was time to put our plan in motion. We climbed down our tree, walked up the small hill to the Rose Garden, crossed the John F. Kennedy Drive and walked toward the Japanese Tea Garden, we decided that it would be better to come in the side gate of the tea garden which was open to the public in those days, we didn’t want to give away our escape route, after all we were “robbers.”

Finding our way into the Japanese Tea Garden and then to the gift house didn’t take long. In the gift house we slowly looked at things and gradually moved into position while casing the area. I started feeling anxious, I could feel beads of sweat. I had my doubt now about our plan and wanted to back-out but I was committed and Gerald I thought would have called me a chicken. Gerald held up his item signaling that he had what he wanted and I grabbed something which I can’t even remember now. I felt my blood rushing and my heart pounding, I looked at Gerald, pausing then suddenly I nodded and we both ran full force out the side door, “HAY YOU KID STOP!!!!!” I heard the store owner yell. I could hear him running after us. “RUN, GERALD, RUN, RUN, RUN!!!!!!” I yelled. I heard Gerald scream in fear. He stopped running standing there frozen. As I ran past him I yelled “RUN!!!” but he just stood there. I was half way under the fence and looked back to see the man holding Gerald by the arm, pointed at me he yelled “YOU GET BACK HERE BOY, I HAVE YOUR FRIEND”. I knew we were done so I surrendered and slowly walked back crying.

The man led us back to the gift shop where he sat us down and went to talk to someone in Japanese for what seemed hours.

I said blubbering through my tears; “Gerald, why did you stop! You see now we’re in trouble”.

“I was scared,” he wept.

The man came in and asked if we wanted him to call our parents. Both of us wept no! no! please no! The man proceeded to question us why we did what we did. I don’t remember what we told him but I do know we didn’t provide a good reason. Eventually, he told us he was going to let us go but that we were never to come to the Japanese Tea Garden again.

Gerald and I got into a fight on the way home and I never played with him again. You would think I learned my lesson wouldn’t you, obviously not….

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