The Great Pajama Heist (Rachel Bower Made Me Do It)
In 1986 I was gearing up for the World Championships, in Torino, Italy. A Canadian coaching couple, Darlene and Tim King, had taken on the sudden responsibility of preparing my freestyle when my coach was unable to make the trip. In the many weeks of training preceding the championships I spent endless hours in the gym bonding with my adoptive twirling family, including a vivacious teen athlete named Rachel Bower.
Rachel and I had a strong connection right from the get-go, and this led me to becoming her family’s temporary, bonus daughter. Every moment not spent in practice was filled with animated conversation, laughter and mischievous deeds. Rachel and I both had kooky personalities and slightly delayed social skills, due to the amount of gym time spent away from the “normal” population. I thought she was the coolest person I had ever met because she knew a bit about fashion and had a good haircut. She thought I was cool because I could catch a 10 spin and had a roll named after me. Overall, we were feeling pretty damn cool as besties. I suppose this feeling of “ultra coolness” had something to do with the deplorable scenario we ultimately got ourselves in to.
Let me begin by saying, Rachel Bower had the best pajamas on the planet. Two- piece men’s button up flannels with paisley patterns on them. (I told you she knew about fashion). Oooh…. how I wanted pajamas like that.
A few days before I was to be shipped off to Italy, Rachel’s mom took us to the mall. We were browsing around when we noticed a set of packaged men’s pajamas nearly identical to the kind my fashion hero wore. The moment I saw them I was filled with desire. I picked up the package, held it close and exclaimed, “I HAVE to get these I NEED them!” Rachel seemed dubious and stated the painful truth, her words floating towards me in slow motion “how are you going to get them? We don’t have any money.”
“OH NOOOOO! No! NO!” I moaned. Seeing my disappointment and pain Rachel quickly whispered, “just take them.”
“What?” I shrieked. Her eyes darted around as she playfully jeered, “Shut-up!… I dare you to take them, I really dare you Annetta Lucero”, and then she skipped off to find her mother.
I stood before the table with the pajamas, many thoughts shooting around in my brain. I was poor. The Canadians were literally coaching me for free and paying for my stay out of the kindness of their hearts.
When we arrived home Rachel and I headed to her room, I had a shifty look glued uncomfortably to my face. She said, “what’s going on, you look totally weird.” With that, I reached in under my jacket and pulled out the purloined pajamas. Rachel’s eyeballs bugged out of her head as she squealed with delight and horror, “Oh My Gosh! You DID IT!!!” “Never dare The Lucero!” I arrogantly proclaimed. As we stood there bragging to one another, the reality of what we had done set in, our fervor wilted, and Rachel whimpered, “I didn’t think you would really do it!” I lamented, “I thought it would be cool to show you I took your dare seriously!” We sobbed, “We are bad people! Something horrible will happen to us!” Feeling remorseful and trapped, I stuck the pajamas under Rachel’s mattress vowing never to wear them and tried to forget my heinousness… but I couldn’t.
Our last days together were dampened by our guilt. We were paranoid we would be arrested by the FBI at any moment. I was taken to the airport and cried as I hugged her goodbye, feeling as though I would never see her again as one of my many consequences. Every moment of turbulence on the flight caused me to believe the plane would crash because of my sin. I couldn’t eat, and when I arrived I felt doomed.
There were four days left before the competition began when I decided to call Rachel. I had to go to everyone I knew and ask for change before I collected the nine dollars I needed for the payphone. I dialed Rachel’s number, praying she would answer, and when she did I blurted out, “Rachel, you have to return the pajamas!” She was quiet. “Rachel Bower! You have to go to that store, find the manager , tell him that your friend, Annetta Lucero, stole the pajamas and she is very sorry, and she will never do anything like this again, and then pay for the pajamas even though you’re returning them, and I will send you the money when I get back.” There was silence on the other end. I continued with more fervor, “RACHEL BOWER YOU RETURN THOSE PAJAMAS OR I WILL LOSE! DO YOU WANT ME TO LOSE THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS?” I was hysterical by now. “OK Annetta, I will do it.” She croaked. “You PROMISE Me!” I demanded, “Yes! YES! I PROMISE I WILL DO IT!” she blubbered. As I hung up the phone I felt a giant weight lift from me. My friend, that wonderful, loyal friend, was going to save me from my awful fate.
I did win the World Championships in 1986, and I have always been grateful to Rachel for her service to the cause, never mentioning the atrocity to anyone.
In 2012 I was teaching clinics in Halifax Canada. I was blown away with joy to find out that Rachel Bower would be my assistant for the weekend. As part of my clinics I always tell my life stories to the athletes during breaks. Although I had never shared this story before, I couldn’t resist the urge, in Rachel’s presence. Her face turned various shades of red and purple as I vibrantly acted out every detail. My attentive audience was entertained and shocked. They may have sat there in stunned silence a bit longer had Rachel not cut in abruptly after my victorious finale.
“Annetta Lucero,” she spouted. “Yes, Rachel Bower,” I replied.
“It’s been 26 years so I hope you have recovered enough for me to tell you…
I was too terrified and embarrassed to go back to that store.
I never returned the pajamas.”