Oil...$1, Jellybeans...$1, the kindness of people in the checkout line...priceless
I thought it would be fun for each of the boys to pick out a present for him, so I brought them to the dollar store. Not to be cheap but, well, yeah, to be cheap.
Plus, our babysitter shopped for us at the dollar store and got us some really cool gifts. So I thought, hey, that's a great idea.
I handed each of the boys a dollar, reminding them, "You're shopping for daddy, not yourself."
"Okay," said Richie as he headed for the children's videos.
J.J., meanwhile, thought we were on the gameshow Supermarket Sweep. He sprinted through the store handing me chips and jelly beans.
But Johnny, being the oldest, was all about the task at hand. Nothing but the best present for his Daddy would do.
He considered a rat trap but settled on motor oil.
"I think Daddy will really like this a lot," he said, holding up the bottle as if it were a work of art. He nodded, as if reassuring himself that he'd made the right choice. "It's to fix his truck."
Richie thought his daddy would like an X-Man cartoon made for Canadian T.V. But he settled on jelly beans. J.J. chose Ritz crackers.
We checked out and Johnny carried the bag to the car.
"This feels light," he said. "Is the motor oil in here?"
It wasn't. It turned out we never even paid for it.
We went back inside, and by this time, J.J. was beside himself. We'd been to the dentist, pet store, sporting good store, bank and grocery store already, and he was at the end of his rope. He wasn't the only one.
I felt like I was playing in a basketball game and all my other teammates had fouled out. And I didn't have arms. I was being outnumbered and outplayed.
Weighing heavily on my mind: the dentist told me Richie has a huge cavity. To a mother, that is like getting an abysmal performance review at work.
J.J. ran to the Dorito display and started throwing the little bags on the floor. Like it was all the Doritos' fault. Hey, come to think of it--do Doritos cause cavities? Maybe I'd throw some bags on the floor, too.
Instead, I picked J.J. up and started swaying back and forth, hoping to sooth him. Which was like wrestling a hungry alligator.
Johnny and Richie, meanwhile, were playing Pokemon in the open doorway, letting in the 30 degree winds.
By now there was a long line.
Out of breath from holding J.J., I barked at Johnny, "Just find what you need to find and get in line."
He picked up the motor oil.
A couple people looked at me strangely, maybe thinking, "Surely that young boy doesn't have to drive that family around."
When he got closer to the checkout, an old lady glanced over at me and then let Johnny go in front of her. She nudged him gently forward when it was his turn.
He paid the cashier for the oil and started to walk away.
"Wait a second, baby," she said. "You've got some change coming."
He took the change and spilled it all over the floor. But now I managed to hold J.J. and help pick up the change. Because the kindness of people in the line was like a little oil in a leaky tank. I didn't need much, just a few drops to get home.
And we did get home--miraculously, without any Doritos getting hurt. Thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Back home, Justin opened his gifts and of course was overjoyed.
Richie helped him eat the jelly beans. Then he sat on his lap.
"Daddy, you like that ink?" he asked. "That ink will make your car feel better."
I guess sometimes we all need a little oil--or ink--in our engines. And they seem to carry both the car kind and the people kind at the dollar store.