I thought I remembered everything on my shopping trip yesterday. After three years of missing my second cousin’s birthday party for his little girl, I’m determined to make today’s bash, so I added 4-year-old girl to my Christmas list and headed out. Instead of going straight to the small shops of Lincoln Square, where I’d find everything else on my list, I went to a mall, so the gift would be easy to return.
I stood in Carson’s and tried to find something that a four year-old girl I don’t really know would like but not already own. I found a make-your-own-necklace kit, for ages 4 and up. That’s creative and fun, right? Unfortunately, the beads and pendants were dull-colored—timid yellows and maroons and was that beige or tan? I couldn’t imagine a child wanting to wear the one long necklace, two short necklaces, or one short necklace and one bracelet that could be constructed from this box of sadness. But they could return it. The toy store in Lincoln Square surely would have a happier necklace set, but if she didn’t even like necklace sets, it would be a long drive.
On my way to the register I noticed a cute pink purse that said Peace in silver glitter. Little girls like purses, right? Only it didn’t cost enough. But on the same display were glittery newsboy caps, one size fits all. Next to them, the bead set looked positively funereal. I left the beads to scare the remaining glitter caps and took my new choices, holding them together to get the full effect. Happy and fun, but maybe too glittery? Are products like this the gateway drug to kiddie pageants and eye makeup? I’ve been watching Toddlers and Tiaras to prepare for a role in a friend’s upcoming short film, and I’m more suspicious of glitter than I used to be.
Then I saw a pink wool hat with yarn pigtails and heart appliques. It’s whimsical but not grown-up. And it’s got an appropriate return price. But what if it doesn’t fit? I saw a mom shopping nearby and wanted to ask, but she seemed like she was in a hurry. “What are nude tights?” asked her daughter.
“Oh, they’re tights that, you know, they’re tights that look, oh, they don’t even have them. Come on, let’s try the juniors department.”
Still holding my two options, I stood in line and looked for someone else to ask. A lady complaining about how Carson’s isn’t as good as it used to be stood in front of me. Too crabby. The woman behind me looked perfect, but as I smiled my preparatory smile a cashier opened a new register and called to me, “I can take you over here.”
When I got to the counter, still smiling, I said, “So for a four year-old girl, which do you think?”
She scratched her shellacked hair. “Oh, I don’t know…why don’t you ask someone else?”
“I was going to…”
Two Saturdays before Christmas, the line behind me was getting longer. “Oh, that one, I guess.” She pointed to the pink hat. “The other is…” she raised her thin, penciled eyebrows.
“I thought so, too!” I gushed, and bought the hat. I got a gift box, tissue paper, and a discount card for the next time I shop here, which will be never, but still it was a nice gesture.
I drove back to Lincoln Square and finished my shopping. Came home and unloaded everything and felt very pleased to be able to check everything off my list except Dave and a trip to the framing store. Then I realized, I don’t have a birthday card for a four year-old girl. Rats. I dug out my box of cards and found a few birthday cards, but nothing appropriate for a child.
“Take your birthday with a grain of salt, a squeeze of lime, and an ounce of Tequila.”
“Aging is inevitable. Maturing is optional.”
Also, a couple of Spanish-language sympathy cards that I’d bought for a film shoot a few years ago and kept, just in case. With anyone else, a sympathy card would be inappropriate, but I happen to remember that when I got married the first time, this cousin gave us a sympathy card instead of a wedding card. At the time, I assumed it was a joke and made some jokey reply in our thank-you card. But I wasn’t sure exactly whether the joke hinged on the idea that all marriages are fatal, or this one in particular.
Maybe that’s why I still remember it, 20 years later. A random omen, if omens can be random, or just another case of needing to bring a card and not wanting to stop at the store when you’ve already got something that sort of works? After all, it’s just something to put a check in, right?
My second cousin speaks Spanish, and his daughter probably doesn’t read yet, so maybe this would work. Four year-olds don’t care about cards, do they? Would my cousin remember the sympathy card from long ago? Or would he just think the weird, childless cousin whose husband didn’t even come to the birthday party is even weirder than he thought?
I could drop Dave at the theatre before his gig, but I think I’ll have to leave him to the el so I can go to CVS for a card. Children are exhausting. Then again, so are adults.