She was positively giddy when morning arrived today. Lucy, age 4, was going to get to shop with her own money. Somehow she ended up with a dollar bill, though I cannot remember who gave it to her, and some change she’d found around the house. When her sister told her she had enough to buy something at the dollar section of Target, she was ecstatic.
When it was time to leave, she carefully emptied her money out of the decorative box marked “Savings” her sister had given her. She smiled up at me with this great grin and headed out the door in her boots, winter coat, and pink superhero cape. Interesting fashion choices in South Dakota in January, I know, but you're only four once, right?
In the van, she found her tiny tutu purse and deposited her money safely inside. I buckled her and pulled out of the driveway. As I found my favorite station on the radio, I soon realized something much more rewarding was coming from behind me. Lucy was “reading” a book. Since she cannot yet read, she was making up a story. How long had it been since I’d heard one of her siblings doing this great, pre-reading exercise? I shut the radio off entirely and enjoyed the vivid descriptions from the book and the made-up names for the characters.
When we arrived at our destination, she was again thrilled to find a bit of luck—there was a “fun cart” waiting in the corral in the parking lot. This is the name she’s given the carts with the extra plastic seats for bigger kids to enjoy as we shop. I pulled it right next to the van and announced that her magic chariot had arrived. In full character complete with accented voice, cape flying behind her, purse clutched safely in hand, she declared, “Thank you, madam,” and lept into the cart.
As we entered the store, I explained to her that perhaps we should move around the whole dollar section to carefully examine her options before she decided. She agreed this was a good idea. I pointed out which things were indeed in her price range and immediately her eyes landed on the colorful rubber ducks. In a very sensible voice, she explained that since she no longer had a rubber duck, this might be a good idea. A woman standing behind me couldn’t help but smile. We placed it the “maybe” section of the cart while we continued to look.
Next came a flower, made of plush fabric with a thick wire running up the stem. “It is pink,” she reasoned. I suggested it could go in the maybe spot as well. As we rounded the corner to the next aisle, she considered a book with letters to trace so she could learn her ABCs. I told her that was something I would buy. No need to spend her own money on that. She was satisfied.
After finishing our rounds of the dollar section we still had only the two items in the maybe section. She had briefly considered a coloring book and spent quite a bit of time on a larger rubber duck. But when I explained to her the one she had chosen first had no way for mold to build up inside, she decided it was the better choice. Another customer shared a knowing smile at the sight of my pint-size shopper trying to make her decision.
A pink duck and a pink rose were all that were left to choose from. She placed her finger thoughtfully on her chin and let a small “hmmmm” escape her lips as she contemplated them both. The duck, of course, won out in the end. We rolled the fun cart to the check out for the final part of our adventure.
As Lucy placed the duck on the conveyor, I told the lady my book was separate. She rang it up and told me it was $1.06. I looked at Lucy and then the checker realized she was speaking to the wrong customer. She repeated the number to Lucy, who looked a bit confused, unsure of what to do next. I told her to give the lady her dollar and then helped her find six cents. When the checker put the duck in a bag, I asked Lucy if she needed a bag or if she just wanted it in her purse. With a sheepish grin she quietly said she needed the bag. I think it made the transaction more real.
She skipped back to the car, her cape floating in the cold winter air, making a few more incoming customers smile. On the drive home, I contemplated telling her how she was learning to save for something and be a careful shopper. But why ruin the magic by letting her know this was a learning experience? Instead we talked about how her cape gave her super powers and how she was making the van fly. She thought we’d be rich with all the money we saved on gas.
Oh to capture this moment in time forever. Perhaps I just did.