[Editor's Note: This was actually her entire holiday shopping. As much as it killed her to do it all at the last minute, she sort of had to because of her swanky new job and also a certain experiment that sort of kept her from doing anything holiday-related in her real life. xo, Lydia]
Fine. If you walk into Target and there's thirty-eleven hundred people there, you quickly race to the kitty litter and toilet paper and ketchup and you get the hell out. However, when there are seven people there, by the time you leave, you can re-stock the shelves, because you've looked at everything. [Editor's Note Back: Duh. You're the hooker. -Kate]
I went right after it opened. By the time I got to the checkout, I was six days closer to Christmas, and the cart had stuff that I'm still not sure why I bought it. And Sharpies. A. LOT. OF. SHARPIES. I'm pretty sure I can recolor, ummm, Earth.
Target Guy: "You get one for spending seventy-five dollars. You're welcome!"
Me: "Uhhh, I just spent $535 dollars."
Me: "You're cute. But I should get, like, twenty-seven of them."
Target Guy: [looks at ceiling - I think he was doing math. Math is hard.]
Me: "If you would have told me, I would have divided up the order into mini-seventy-five dollar purchases."
Target Guy: "But you didn't."
Me: "Because you didn't tell me about the gift cardiness."
Me: [glares at Target Guy] "Can I use my ten dollar gift card."
Target Guy: "YES! The next time you come."
Me: "You're lucky it's Christmas and I'm all benevolent-y and stuff..."
Target Guy: "Benevolent-y. Yes, that's what I was thinking."
And then I sorta liked that he was mouthy, so despite being 26 giftcards short, I gave him
Husband: "Please. Jennifer. Stop. It's not going to work."
Wife: "It will."
Husband: "Honey, I can't -- we can't afford this if..."
Wife: "It'll work. It has to work. Please work...please work."
And she opened her purse and took out an envelope and took out a gift card inside that envelope. And she paused and slid it through that little credit card machine.
And I couldn't move.
And for a moment, there was this -- nothingness. The cash register was quiet. The cashier was quiet. They were quiet. I think by this point I had forgotten to breathe.
And just like that the little receipt spit out like a streamer at a fourth of July parade. And she started crying and her husband wrapped his arm around her. And they started loading their bags in the cart.
Husband: "Show me the card again."
Wife: [handed him the envelope]
Husband: "Who is it?"
Wife: "I don't know.
Husband: "I still don't get it."
Wife: [smiled and shrugged her shoulders]
Husband: [kissed her on the forehead]
And right as they were finishing up and heading out, she looked up and saw me standing there.
"Oh my god. It's Kate."
And then the tears came. In public. I should also maybe point out at the moment that I had on no makeup, hadn't brushed my hair, and was wearing...sneakers. I was as un-Kate as I could be. I'd like to think I'd be unrecognizable. Apparently....no.
Jennifer: "I got Christmas stuff because of you."
Husband: "Who is this?"
Jennifer: "She's the reason we got the giftcard. [to me] I want to hug you, but you don't do that."
Me: "Yeah, no. I think I'll just stand right here, OK?"
Jennifer: "OK." [more tears] "Thank you for doing this."
Me: "No, please. You guys did this."
And I looked down at my cart full of random crap and too many Sharpies and maybe a T-box, and -- from all my mad spy skillzzzz -- knew that hers had socks and cereal and a big box of toilet paper and definitely Legos which made me happy and let's not forget the slippery ball in the hands of that sweet squishy boy and I wished more than anything there was a sweet elderly lady with the obligatory tissue tucked in her sleeve.
And that's when squishy snuggled up to his mama and asked to go to the bathroom...and I smiled and maybe laughed a little, and started to head out the door. And as I got to the car, I wished - more than even the Tissue Lady - that I could have peeked at that card, and seen what one of you had written to Jennifer. I hoped that it said something like "MERRY CHRISTMAS, HOOKER!" and had made her laugh and cry at the same time, and maybe even disbelieve just a little bit that it would actually work. Because who sends a gift card to a total stranger?
Lefty is right about the age when he starts doubting whether Santa exists. Last year, I read him "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" mostly because I'm not ready for my son to give up the beauty that comes from believing in something improbable. This year, I let him read your stories. He might not be sure about Santa, but this he knows:
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
So, thank you MommyLand. Thank you for showing us that love and generosity and devotion exist, even among strangers. Thank you for sharing that beauty and joy that comes when something magical and extraordinary happens.
And, for me especially, thank you for making it happen at Target. Oh how I love that store.
Oh, and I'm really sorry if you tried to buy Sharpies. I am trying to color the Earth, after all...
PS We'll be posting all of your "My Story" stories all next week as Lydia and I and all of MommyLand spend the week with our families. Merry Christmas, hookers.
(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011