Dollar Tree

As soon as Daughter got home from school yesterday she started asking if we could go to the Dollar Tree. Her friend’s birthday is tomorrow, and she wants to assemble a gift bag for her. Also, on the way home, we need to pick up flour, sugar, butter, and eggs so she can make a birthday cupcake.

This is my kind of errand.

The Dollar Tree is a mess of dollies teetering in the aisles with boxes and once-shelved items strewn on the floor. Twice while we’re there a box falls over onto a shopper. Two frazzled employees are doing their best to hold it all together, and shoppers seem surprisingly unbothered by the mess, gently kicking items out of their way as if they were sliding garments aside on a clothes rack. I think I’m the most stressed person in the store.

That’s partly because I’m with an 11 year-old who is clutching exactly $11 she intends to spend on this birthday basket. She is systematically striding through the debris, making a mental list and expressing her every thought out loud. She made some general suggestions on the walk over–hair ties, Takis–but when I point those items out she has a reason at the ready why they’re not suitable. “She likes candy better.” “Pink isn’t her color.” I take two cleansing breaths and decide to let this take as long as it takes; we have nowhere to be and she has no homework for tomorrow. I’m kind of fascinated, actually.

We end up in the checkout aisle with a pens, Twix, hand lotion, a small stuffed animal, scrunchees, conditioner, a card, and a drawstring backpack to hold it all. In front of us is a man buying a bag of frozen french fries accompanied by two jars of minced garlic and two shakers of garlic salt, and behind us is a man on the phone with “Babe,” as in, “Babe, have you ever considered that you have enough charisma to start a cult?” Daughter’s got her dollars at the ready, but so do I. I’m certain she’s busted her budget.

“$10.46” says the checker. Daughter is exceedingly satisfied to hand over her money and receive back her 54 cents change. We step outside into the post daylight savings dark, and I silently wish for every person we pass on the sidewalk a friend who will spend $10.46 on them at the Dollar Tree.

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