I was only stopping in for a second. The CVS was bustling with Christmas Eve “Eve” activity – folks stocking up on cards, wrapping paper and a couple of old ladies buying boxed wine that was probably a good deal in terms of ounces per dollar. Tinny carols were being played too loudly and the checkout people had a dazed look like prizefighters that hang on into the late rounds.
I got what I needed and was surveying the lines, trying to spot the one most likely not to cost me more than 10 minutes, for I too had other places to be. I noticed a boy – maybe about 10 or 11 – with his dad standing at a set of shelves that contained various “home décor” items: small fountains, scented fake candles, potpourri sets, that all looked liked they were made of cheap plastic and wouldn’t last a week.
The dad looked harried and his well-worn and rumpled clothes suggested poverty or something near to it. The boy had that look that when I was younger and less-PC I would have referred to as “slightly retarded”. He was clutching two bills in one fist. A ten and a one.
“What do you think she’d like the most, dad?” the boy asked, touching each of the boxes in turn.
“Which do you think? I’m sure you’re mom will love it,” the dad said gently.
I had a pang of guilt having blundered into this private moment and watching the boy’s concentration over choosing his mom’s gift. And my guess was that it was going to be her sole gift. A smile dawned across his face and chose the fountain.
I thought of the pile of brightly wrapped boxes under our two-story tree and felt ridiculous about tearing up in the middle of chaotic drug store.
I hope that fountain lasts a long time.