I take my son to the 99-cent store near our house sometimes. It’s a great place to go when we run out of money and better entertainment ideas. No matter what he wants there, it will only cost me a dollar.
Years ago, the first time we ever went, I took him up and down every aisle. I told him he could choose anything he wanted. It was close to Easter, so the chocolate rabbits, jelly beans and other candies were plentiful and appealing. He looked at all of it, but nothing struck his fancy.
We checked out the toys, the books, the clothes, the snacks and a variety of other odd items. He seemed interested, but not enthused by any of it. Then we turned down the cooking aisle.
On the back wall of the store at the end of the row, hanging at exactly his eye level, was a neon pink miniature silicone bundt cake pan. That was it. He had to have it.
I questioned him over and over. “This? You really want this?”
His communication skills were severely limited then, but he made himself clear. He pointed, he smiled, he reached for it. He wanted that neon pink pan.
I wasted a few more minutes indulging my disbelief, then finally shrugged my shoulders, paid for the pan and took us home. He played with it non-stop for weeks and even slept with it on occasion.
Last year I took him to Toys-R-Us right before his birthday. I told him to pick out all that he wanted. I would buy the gifts and wrap them for him to open at his party.
I expected him to choose a big train set, a giant box of new Legos or something else huge and out of my price range. He looked at everything in the store then gleefully chose a six dollar cardboard piggy bank made to look like a giant green crayon.
This year we made it a tradition. A few weeks before his birthday, I took him to Toys-R-Us again. “Pick out whatever you want,” I said.
At my suggestion, he chose some art supplies, a backpack and lunch bag for the new school year and one or two big ticket items, but he didn’t seem that excited about any of it.
Then we rounded the last aisle and found the cardboard crayon banks again. He lit up and chose a red one this time.
This week I took him with me to my favorite fabric store. He is finally excited about reading numbers and letters and telling me the shapes of everything he sees, so I got to wander through the entire place for a change.
I followed him through the aisles for thirty minutes, happily listening to his lilting little voice as he told me the color of each bolt of fabric. He was so charming as he looked for things to show me that I decided to buy him a treat.
I thought he might choose the big pack of Mickey Mouse stickers on the scrapbook aisle or the giant stuffed dogs next to the patterns, but instead he took me purposefully toward a row of Mardi Gras beads dangling by the spools of satin ribbon. Isn’t Mardi Gras in March?
He ran his little fingers up and down every strand. There were plain and plastic and shiny metallics. There were simple round beads and some shaped like dolphins or fruit or stars. There were bright and glossy or muted and dull. There were strings in every color and all of them were packaged three to a set.
He carefully touched each necklace, but seemed immediately to know he wanted the white pearly strands on the left. I checked the price and was pleased to find an affordable $2.49 on the sticker. We took them to the register, added them to our other items and paid the bill.
I long ago learned not to question his decisions. His taste for the simpler things in life is something my wallet and I love equally.
When we drove home, I just enjoyed watching him in the rear view mirror. He was sitting calmly with his hands in his lap, a happy little twist of smile on his face and the necklaces hanging around his neck. He kind of reminded me of Barbara Billingsley.