The kids are gonna be all right
I was a quart low on caffeine after I'd overslept and barely had time to bake the guys' traditional Friday morning cinnamon rolls, let alone chug the half pot of coffee it takes to get my brain in gear.
And with my mood running more toward Grinch, I did not, did not, did not want to put on the elf costume I'd worn twice earlier during the week to volunteer at the holiday store at the guys' school. But then I remembered their principal saying what a big kick the kids got out of the get-up, so I guilted myself into putting it on anyway.
Yes, the holiday store. It's easy as an adult to become cynical about these things. We know that a lot of the merchandise is trinkety. We know the wildly popular bottles of goo are going to wind up ground into our carpet, and the musical snowglobe is going to tax what's left of our sanity. We view it as a necessary evil to endure.
With my splitting caffeine withdrawal headache and my colossal case of the grumps, I didn't even want to go. I would have baled except I knew two kindergarten classes were scheduled to shop this morning and 5-year-olds tend to need a little extra help wading through $30 worth of merchandise when they have $5 to spend.
I whimpered. I whined. I pouted. I put on the dang pointy hat and went anyway.
I'm glad I did, because just as I do every time I volunteer at the guys' school, I learned something. Last spring I got to again feel the heartbreak of a 6-year-old distraught at leaving his first-grade friends. Last fall, I'd discovered that though Big Guy might seem bent on driving me mad at times with his antics, he's not pulling anything that the rest of his classmates aren't trying to get away with as well.
Today I saw two beautiful young hearts share an unexpected windfall with their loved ones instead of hoarding it.
The first was a quiet, doe-eyed boy who came to shop after winning three "fun bucks." He'd picked out a finger football game for himself and a ring for his mother, and that had depleted his winnings. On the way to the cash register, though, he spied a silver and pink necklace with the word "Mom" in script surrounded by flowers. It was $3.
"You have enough money to buy this," I said. "But if you buy it you won't be able to get your football game. What do you want to do?"
He didn't hesitate even a second. "I want the necklace for my mommy."
The second was a bright-eyed girl who had found the elfish ebullience that I'd lacked that morning. She'd also won $3, and she knew what she wanted to do with it. "I want to buy presents for my brother," she said.
Presents. Plural. She picked out a basketball sippy cup for 95 cents and a pack of Silly Bandz for $1.50. "He's going to love this," she said.
"You still have money left. Would you like to buy of these for yourself?" I asked, pointing to the container of colorful over-sized erasers.
Her bright eyes got brighter and rounder. "For me? I can buy something for me?"
I nodded. Her smile broadened - I really hadn't thought that was possible - as she grabbed a strawberry and a grape. "Oh, thank you!"
No little girl, thank you, and your classmate as well. Thank you both for being bright, beautiful examples of why this generation of kids is not a collection of self-centered, self-absorbed little brats who are going to send the world to hell in a handbasket.
And thank you for helping me to step outside the curmudgeonly world inside my head and share your beauty.
I suppose I'll have to wear the elf costume next year, too.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.