While I was grocery shopping last week, I watched a child who couldn’t have been older than 10 walk up to the deli counter and order some American cheese.
The boy must have been nervous because he spoke softly and shuffled his feet as he ordered. He got flustered when the deli clerk asked him which brand he wanted and his face went bright red.
The clerk was very kind and said she’d give him the brand that was on sale. She even handed the boy a slice to eat while he waited.
His father walked up as the deli clerk handed the boy the package of cheese. The child beamed as he walked up to his father, who said, “Good job” and patted him on the back.
Actually, I don’t know whose smile was bigger, the boy, who looked as though he’d just survived a great trial; the father, who looked proud to see his son return from “battle”; or the deli clerk, who helped the boy through one of life’s little rites of passage.
As a child, I always loved when my mother would send me on little missions. We’d be grocery shopping and sometimes she’d let me go get something on a different aisle.
Or, she’d tell me to watch the cart while she went down to the end of the aisle to get something. Even though I was never out of her line of sight, I always felt like a big girl given a giant responsibility.
I remember the first time my mother let me go to the checkout counter by myself. I was about 9 or 10 and instead of being a source of great personal pride, I remember it most for being one of the first times (followed by many) I made a fool of myself in public.
Where is now, used to be a small mini mart called Sulli’s.
I’m sure they sold bread, milk and standard mini-mart fare, but all I remember is the penny candy and Slush Puppies. Hey, I said I was 9 or 10, what else do you expect me to remember?
It was a special treat for my sister and I when we could go to Sulli’s in the summer and spend our allowance on a Slush Puppie and some penny candy. One of my favorite penny candies was something called Fortune Bubble. As its name suggests, it was a bubble gum with a fortune in it. It was bright pink and disgustingly sweet.
One particular day, my mother took us to Sulli’s to buy one of the many items I don’t remember Sulli’s selling.
As she pulled right up in front of the door, my mother said she had a special job for me and handed me a couple of dollars. I was a terribly shy child and as I walked in, nervous and clammy, I noticed a few people standing around the counter talking.
I walked the aisles and, after procuring what I was sent in to get, I walked up to the counter. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I handed the clerk whatever it was I was there to buy. The total came to $1.05.
I handed him the two dollars and he asked if I had the five cents. Flustered and assuming I was in trouble, I turned beat red and blurted, “I HAVE NO CENTS!” Of course, what everyone heard was, “I HAVE NO SENSE!”
Realizing what I’d said, I turned even redder and broke into a cold sweat. The other customers pretended not to notice and the clerk gave me my change. Hanging my head in embarrassment, I went to the car and told my mother what I’d said.
My mother has a great way of making me see the humor in a situation and, after a few minutes of talking, we were laughing about the whole thing, but I will ever forget that first time I was given a little more responsibility (and made complete fool of myself).