New Eyes

It was a rarity for me and the children; a trip to the mall. I don’t like shopping, but we had gifts to buy. We went to the local megalopolis, where the hustle and bustle were at full tilt. It has been a long while since last I had visited the retail dome.

My girls were excited at all the bobbles and flashy signage in the windows. Holiday season was fast approaching after all – buy, buy, buy. The oldest and only male child was noting how the facilities had changed; new stores, missing stores, etc. Mostly he was commenting on the aroma of food. He’s a male teenager – he is always hungry!

On this excursion my eyes noticed something completely different. At first glance, the stores were different, but basically the layout of the mousetrap was the same. The more notable observation was the number of people in the mousetrap at that time, on that day of the week. You see, it was the middle of the day – a school day even, in the middle of the week. Even though the holiday season was several weeks out, it was still unusual for there to be this many people in the facility, lingering. The stereotypical moms with children were few in number. Odd. Grown men, not the mall walker type, however were present in groups. Odd.

After my crew had stopped in a couple of stores and had a few bags in the children’s hands, I noticed that I kept seeing two faces. These were not the warm welcoming happy faces. At first I thought I was just imagining it. After a few more stops, these two male faces were definitely remaining in close proximity to our four-some. I decided that I needed to test my theory that they were following us.

While continuing in the conversations and walking with my small people, I kept them close to the center of the walkways and headed towards one of the anchor stores. My thought was, I know that anchor store’s layout, the lighting is good, there are typically a lot of regular employees in this store, and I knew where the exits were located.

As I made my way into the anchor store, I started venturing into various departments that would have been odd for these two male strangers. We started with the front left corner of the store. My daughters were thrilled that we were in the purse department. I took my time stopping to check out the designer label styles, letting my girls try on a few here and there. My son was super excited – not – but he was a good sport. All the while I watched our followers.

To further test my theory, I pushed even further into the department. I walked through the aisles stopping to comment on various purses, beach bags, and backpacks taking pictures for my girls to show grandma. Our shadows continued following us going through the same aisles. While keeping my body between the followers and the children I stood at a side stance so I could keep my eyes on them.

As I would look back towards the offenders, I started making mental notes. The taller of the two would hide his face faking being on the phone – you could just tell. The smaller of the two would look up and on occasion meet my eye – blankly. I played it off that I was looking back at a style of bag or purse we had already seen. I could never tell if the one shadow was looking at me or my daughters who were behind me. They certainly did not perceive myself or my son as a threat – their mistake.

Since it was obvious at this point they were definitely following us, I had turned on full protective mode. I was running scenarios in my mind quickly as I kept the children entertained. As I made a plan of escape, I again assessed my aggressors. I identified features, heights, and weights – to the best of my ability. I compared them with the size of people I knew. I took note of their clothing. I knew the colors. I knew how their pants hung on their body. I saw their shoes – solid shoes – good for running away with my children or myself. I knew how their jacket and hoodie laid on their bodies. If they had weapons they would be small and hard to access in the current space. I started envisioning the placement of my hands and feet on them. I could clearly see the “handles” for chokes. My feet would easily hit their hips to keep distance and for leverage. Throws may be difficult due to space constraints, however, the aisles would be wide enough for trips to be effective. As these thoughts ran through my mind, I continued to be focused. I seemed to have a strange clarity of my surroundings and my next actions.

Keep away from the big exit doors at the end of the anchor store – easy to grab my child and run.

Stay center.

Run!

Flee!

Now!

While my mind was a structured whirlwind, I continued engaging in regular conversations with the children. I didn’t want to startle them or cause them to have a fearful reaction to our constant shadows.

As we exited the anchor store, I immediately started scanning the mouth of the mall for potential associates of our strangers who might be waiting. All was clear. We proceeded to make our way through the mall heading back to the exit closest to our car. I put all three children on task. I started a game with them…. who could walk the most upright for the longest….who could walk without giggling the longest.…who could walk and pat their head at the same time. Every once in a while, I would “accidentally” drop something so I could stop, position my body where I could pick up the item, and look to see if we were still being followed. For a while we were. The games became more elaborate for the children – who can skip to our exit without falling. The giggles were louder and my fear kept mounting.

When we got to the long, closed-off hallway that would lead to the mall exit, I took one last look behind me. I didn’t see our shadows, so the game was at the finale. I turned and told the children to all race down the empty hallway to the exit door and stop. I ran too. I kept the children back and opened the door that led to the parking lot. I told the children I was checking the weather – they thought I was crazy, but alas I fake crazy well as a mom. I took a few steps outside the mall towards the parking lot to see if the strangers had gone out a different exit to meet us. The coast was clear. We exited and quickly made our way to the vehicle. Once inside, I felt as though I breathed for the first time in a long time. Doors were locked and we left the campus of criminal behaviour.

Only after I began driving did I mention to the children our followers. Surprisingly, the oldest, a Krav and BJJ student, had not noticed the shadows, but the youngest did. Her comment was, “Yeah, they had been following us since Bath and Body Works.” Needless to say, I have determined I won’t venture into that kingdom of chaos again. It may look the same, but it is not.

All of this was to share with you dear readers that had I not started taking self-defense classes, I would never have paid attention. Maybe I would have realized the threat all too late. These individuals, our shadows, had a purpose. They had intent to do harm to me or my children. The classes at NKM&BJJ, whether they be Krav Maga or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, don’t just work your body in preparation. They work your mind too! It was honestly one of the most scary situations that I had been placed in – with my children. I had a greater duty – be the mom, be the protector. NKM&BJJ gave me new eyes to see the potential harm.

As Imi says, we train so “We may walk in Peace.” I had peace about what I needed to do to keep my family unit safe, to the best of my ability. I didn’t need to stand and fight, though I could have if necessary. I had an option – a way out – simply because I stayed alert. I was able to flee the area.

Readers, we have fun in class every time. But the purpose of the class is the “life insurance”. Invest. It’s worth it.

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