Every holiday, I shop for children’s toys. I have no off-spring and, therefore, no grandchildren. I shop because my mother started the tradition years ago and she expects me to continue it. So, the day after Thanksgiving I found myself browsing through a local store, wandering past rows and rows of stuffed animals, red wagons and electronic robots, hoping to find the perfect gift for a little boy. Usually, I’m conservative in my choices. For a girl, I pick a doll; for a boy a red fire engine or something that makes noise. I pride myself on being a feminist, but during the holidays, I grow conservative rather than disappoint someone young.
This year no toy caught my eye. A fuzzy donkey peered at me from a bin, its sad eyes too sad for the season, and the electronic toys struck me as too fragile to endure hard play. Where are the red fire engines, I wondered. Continuing to comb through the shelves, I found nothing suitable. Then I looked overhead and spied a kiddie car, bright yellow with red flames painted on the sides. That would perfect for a boy, I thought and looked for the manager to learn what it cost. Off the top of his head, the man didn’t know, so he went for a ladder and climbed to the top shelf to read the label. “$59.99,” he shouted down at last.
When I heard him, my insides crumpled. $59.99 was too much for a single toy and I had others to buy. I told the man, I wasn’t interested and walked away, intent upon taking another turn around the displays. I took two turns, in fact, but nothing suited. I could think of nothing but that yellow kiddie car with its burst of red flames. I’ve fallen in love with a toy, I scolded myself; but being surly had no effect. Another voice was at work in my head. Okay, you’ve fallen in love? Worse things can happen. If you spend $59.99, will you go hungry? Will you be thrown out on the streets? It’s Christmas, after all. Go on. Do what makes you feel good.
Deciding the voice was right, I carried my kiddie car to sales counter. A young girl greeted me with a smile. She probably imagined my gift was for a grandchild. “That’ll be $11.99’’ she said as she held out her hand for cash or a credit card. My reply was sterner than I’d intended. “You’ve made a mistake, I’m afraid. The car costs $59.99. Please check the register again.”
Surprised, the clerk did as I asked. When the same number popped up as before, she called the manager. He arrived promptly and scanned the box for a third time. “I’ll be darned,” he said as he stared at the screen in front of him. “It’s your lucky day, lady. Headquarters just reduced this little beauty to $11.99.”
I drove home with my treasure, feeling as if I’d won the lottery. I’d been guilty of a little irrational Christmas exuberance and been rewarded. On Christmas morning, my yellow kiddie car with the red flames shooting from its sides will stand under a tree somewhere in the city, waiting to surprise a wide-eyed little boy.
(Originally posted 12/14/13)
(Courtesy of ebay.com)