When a Woman Accused Us of Stealing a Handicapped Placard


It’s Saturday and again I’m trying to sneak out of my house to go to the store alone. It’s a habit I have and I imagine most mothers have because we’re trying to spend the weekend getting things done as quickly as possible. I’m rounding my SUV when I hear the garage door open and out runs my little 5-year-old. She asks, “Where you goin’, Mom? Where you goin?” I told her, “Hobby Lobby. Do you want to go or stay with Daddy?” I know the answer even before she speaks. Her face brightens and she gets a megawatt smile on her face and says, “I come wit you, Mom!”

Were moving in the next two weeks, so our house is in disarray. It’s been raining all week and she’s been stuck inside. I think to myself that I should take her by the craft section to see if I can find an activity that will entertain her while I finish packing the living room. She’s been a trooper for the last few weeks, living among the boxes and missing some of her favorite things. She’s weathered this transition pretty well.

We pull up and find a handicapped spot right at the front. It can be extremely windy in Amarillo, Texas and today is no different. It’s gusting at 40 mph and I know before we get out I have to warn her that it’s going to be windy and to put on her ear protection. I get out, making sure I have two hands on her door before I open it. We start walking toward the store.

I’m stopped immediately by an elderly lady and her husband who are about to get into their car. She says, “You should be ashamed of yourself. Look at you, two perfectly healthy beings, using up a handicapped spot. You know it’s not right to steal your grandmother’s handicapped placard just so you can park close. It’s horribly windy today and the elderly could use that spot you’re parked in.” I wait patiently until she’s done and mentally remind myself to be polite. This is a lady who believes handicapped placards are only for the elderly.

I smile at her even though I’m irritated, a practice I learned in the deep south of Georgia, and say, “You’re correct, I am perfectly healthy and would gladly walk a mile to the store, but my daughter can’t.” I pull Gabby forward slightly and say, “Do you want to question her about her disability or would you be able to take my word for it that we got that sticker honestly?” I can see it in her scowl, she’s immediately taken aback because she’s being pushed to question a 5-year-old about her disability. Then she looks at me and I can tell she wants me to explain how my daughter is affected, but I won’t. I hold strong and stare at her, letting her know that I won’t fill her head with gossip. As Gabby has gotten older, I no longer feel like it’s my place explain her diagnosis or experiences to every stranger.

She looks back and forth between us, and I can see the questions and accusations on her face. I hold my tongue as long as possible and say, “If the parking police is done for the day, we’d like to go about our shopping.” Her husband must have finally gotten annoyed with her or just sick of waiting there and finally said to her, “Get in the damn car, Alice, with your judgmental self.”

I smile brightly at her husband and he gives me a wink.

I start to pull Gabby forward and she says, “What’s hand-capt ?” I answer quickly and say, “Special.” She keeps walking and looks back up at me and says, “What’s special?” I stop and turn to her, staring smiling down into her beautiful big brown eyes and say, “You!”

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