I hadn't been in such a long time. I felt I had to go. There are certain things that are so much less expensive at Wal-Mart than at other stores. Sure, I could go at three in the morning, but I'm usually busy then. I don't hate Wal-Mart the way other people do, but I hate it in my own way. As I pulled into the vast acreage known as The Parking Lot, I said aloud to myself, "I'm just going to embrace this." I grabbed a stray cart on the asphalt and drove it right into the store.
My list wasn't long. And of course, I could have stayed away for a few more months, but I began walking the aisles and making decisions. There was an actual line for the knee-high stockings. I was in third place. We each had a cart and entered the aisle for nylons from the same direction, making it look like a drive-thru for pantyhose. And the customer in front of me took her sweet time, boy.
I bought laundry products. Yes, we get some of those at Costco, but I'm tired of the containers that are too big to easily handle. I don't like the blue drips, splats, and stains from the nifty dispenser. I chose to spend more in order to buy a smaller quantity. Go figure.
I rounded the corner to paper products and moved forward several feet without realizing that I had just passed the Puffs. Puffs Plus with Lotion to be specific. Having had five surgeries from the neck up and enduring life-long battles with allergies, asthma, and chronic upper respiratory infections, Puffs are my choice and we never have less than a dozen unopened boxes on hand. Don't judge me.
I pulled my cart to the far right hand side of the aisle in front of a wide array of paper towels. I stepped back a few feet to grab my Puffs and when I turned around to walk forward again, I witnessed a woman shoving my cart with her cart, not feet, but yards and yards down the aisle! Her husband was walking by her side, chatting amicably. My first inclination was to call out, "I'm so sorry! Let me get my cart out of the way for you." Because, you know, I was thinking I must have been parked in front of her favorite brand of paper towels. But as she kept going, I decided to remain silent, amused with her behavior. I really wondered when and why she might stop. She wasn't looking at paper towels. There were no other customers where she decided to take my cart on a joy ride. Something possessed her to stop, give my cart another shove, and then pull out from behind my cart and walk merrily on her way. I caught up to my basket, dumped the Puffs in and followed her to the end of the aisle, never saying a word.
I felt I was pretty much finished when I decided to call my husband. I hate to bother him at work, but I decided it was worth it and was sent to his voicemail. I said, "Hi, Sweetie, I'm at Wal-Mart and I'm not coming back for a long time. I'm just wondering if you can think of anything we need from this place before I check out." He didn't return my call.
Oh, the check out lines. I got in line behind a family with six children. The father was supervising the unloading of two baskets of groceries. At first, there were only five children, the eldest being a boy with glasses and facial hair--high school age. There was another boy with a shirt on from a junior high school and two other boys younger than that. The smallest child was a little girl sitting in the front of the cart with her petite legs dangling. I couldn't see a mother or a wedding ring on the father's hand or the influence of a mother. But that's just me. Maybe she was getting a pedicure or eating bon bons on the sofa at home.
The father was barking orders, the boys were all helping to stack things on the checkout counter: bacon, tubes of hamburger meat, frozen cans of orange juice, Cascade dishwasher detergent. The father was shrewd with his money. Very careful. He asked the clerk to price check something. Turns out the father was right. When it was almost time to pay, the other girl showed up. She was in high school as well. She was holding a couple pairs of jeans and her father said, "Are you happy with those then? Add them to the pile."
All seven family members had dark hair. The children were plain looking as far as clothing was concerned. I noticed the smaller girl did have a cute brown leather belt around her jeans with a pink shirt tucked in. The older girl was wearing jeans without a trace of bling on the butt and a solid blue t-shirt. Her hair was straight and brown. The boys were similarly clad in dark solid t-shirts (except for the one with the name of his junior high school proudly displayed), plain jeans, and black shoes that were certainly purchased in bulk and on sale. The boys looked like they were all in need of a hair cut. You could tell they had all received hair cuts at the same time last time, and that each identical cut had grown out at the same identical rate. Like the shoes, I imagine the hair cuts were purchased in bulk and on sale.
Here's the thing about this family. I fell in love with them while standing in line at Wal-Mart. I don't know where the mama is. Maybe she died. Maybe she's sick. Maybe she took off and ditched them all. Maybe she's around and they have the happiest life ever together. The vibe I was getting, however, was that she was absent. Dad is doing his absolute level best keeping it together. His kids are smart and bright and handsome. He's taught them to work. He makes what concessions he can for the older daughter, not realizing what it means to be a teenage girl. Nobody else had a clothing purchase. Just her.
I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to be a reporter for NPR and delve into the personal details of their lives. I wanted to tell the father, "You are doing a GREAT job! I can see you're working so hard." I wanted to give the boys hair cuts and give the girls some flower clips or head bands to shine them up just a bit. I'm not even good at doing my own hair and shining myself up, but I could have added a little something.
I wanted to congratulate the dad for keeping all six kids healthy and happy and for providing for their needs to the best of his ability. I just wanted to cheer them on! It's so hard these days, in this economy. Although I found myself wanting to give something to this family, to add something positive to their situation, I couldn't help but think, "They'll be just fine. Plain jeans and plain shirts and too much time between hair cuts never hurt anybody. They'll be just fine." Dad is teaching them to work, to shop smart, to budget, and to go without some of the flashier things life has to offer. They will probably grow up to be some of the finest citizens a community could ever hope for!
I checked out. The clerk was so nice. Glen was his name. He made sure I didn't forget anything. The last thing he said to me was, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart!"
I left the store. A family of three was selling Girl Scout Cookies. I bought four boxes--K will be thrilled! The mom and the dad are so proud of their fifth grade Girl Scout. She was all smiles and had countless badges sewn on. Such good folks. Another set of dedicated parents, willing to do whatever it takes to help their kid succeed.
When I arrived at Wal-Mart, I said I was going to embrace the whole experience. It would seem the experience has embraced me. Thank you for letting me shop at Wal-Mart.
5 hours ago