Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Treasures: Aisle 19


“Oh my!” I realized “Christmas is just around the corner!” Literally as I made the turn to aisle 12, amid the $4.00 festive red crock pots stacked precariously on the end cap; Christmas, in all of its material splendor, awaited. Piled high, six aisles wide, as far as the eye could see, Christmas loomed. Blue light illuminating the path, the season of good cheer and full shopping carts beckoned. Four dollars for a crock pot, now that’s a Christmas miracle. The store was full of them, and it wasn’t even November yet. I really didn’t need a two quart red crock pot, so although it didn’t exactly qualify as a treasure, among my other full price purchases it certainly ranked a place of high esteem.
Luckily there was still room in my cart as I cleared the last holiday aisle, because right before my wondering eyes did appear aisle 19, Halloween clearance. Now that’s an aisle I can dive into with gusto; no indecision, no speculating a potentially better price across town. Aisle 19 is only for hearty shoppers. We swoop and we move on. Then I spotted it, the coveted bargain we clearance aisle aficionados dream of, a silvery grey comb over wig. Unexpectantly brilliant among the rainbow clown wigs and oversized diaper pins. The last one too; and who knows when you might need one. I bent over to fish out the treasure, but was beaten to the punch, side swiped by a faster, younger version of myself.
Stunned with disbelief, I set my sights on her. She looked so kind. But she was clutching the wig in triumph. There was no polite, “Oh excuse me. Did you want this wig? Here you take it.” nothing of the sort. She inspected her prize and sighed with relief. Finally she noticed me staring at her.
“I can’t believe I finally found one of these! My son needs it for his part in the Grandparents Day program at our school. He is so thrilled to finally have a singing part, not a solo, just a duet. But it’s a big deal to him. My parents are coming.” Her eyes seemed to take on additional weight as she mentioned her parents. I tried not to look interested, not to like her. She was, technically speaking, the unlawful owner of my treasure.
Eyes glued to the wig, brows knotted, I queried.
“Is he supposed to dress up as an old man?” Why was I responding? Why would I engage this stealer of comb over wigs in conversation? Something held me there, in aisle 19. Unlike mine, her cart was empty. Maybe she already had a red crock pot, but for four dollars, who couldn’t use another one?
“Oh no, they’re doing a musical tribute to TV sitcoms, it’s very creative. My son’s singing the theme from “All in the Family” so he has to look like Archie Bunker. He hadn’t any idea what the show was about or who Archie Bunker was, so we’ve been watching reruns on the internet. He really has Archie Bunker’s mannerisms down, it should be very cute.” This woman was beaming with pride. This wig stealing, crock pot-less woman who gave birth to a Carroll O’Connor wanna be, was beginning to grow on me.
“My Dad has cancer. He’s 78, we’re pretty sure this will be his last Grandparent’s Day, so it’s a really big deal. My son’s especially excited. I’ve been looking all over for this wig. I can’t believe I found one for half price. Money is tight this year and” her voice trailed off as she looked into my eyes. She stepped back slightly.
“I’m so sorry to go rattling on. I’m sure you’re busy. It’s just such a blessing to have found this, on sale even. You know sometimes it feels like God isn’t even listening, but then He answers some little prayer in a big way and I know that He is.” She tossed the wig into her cart and smiled.
“Enjoy your day” she said as she pushed her practically empty cart past me down the aisle.
“You too, Good luck with the show.” I replied. What I wanted to say was, “I’m sorry about your Dad. I’m sorry about cancer and heartbreak and not having enough money.” As I turned my cart back toward the Christmas merchandise, I so wished there was an end cap display of miracles for her. Maybe the hem of Jesus’ garment to touch or a “buy one get one free” special on mats to load her Dad up on, so we could carry him to Jesus.
Then I realized it. It appeared like a silvery grey comb over wig in the midst of clown shoes and dried vampire blood. Her miracle was right there on aisle 19, and like the disciples she had the wisdom to want to share it with Me. I retraced my steps through the Christmas aisles, systematically unloading my cart. I wanted it be empty, hopeful, anticipating whatever Jesus had in store for me. Except the red crock pot, I kept that. Christmas was right around the corner
I decided it was time to go home, watch an “All in the Family” re-run on the internet. I filled my new red crock pot with hot chocolate. As I curled up with the patchwork afghan my grandmother made me when I was young, I said a prayer for my clearance aisle friend and her family and smiled at thought of her son with a comb over wig and a cigar in his mouth. The treasure I’d found that day was tucked away, but my cart felt full. Christmas was right around the corner and it was time to make room, unexpected things happen all the time.
The End

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