I'd finally finished cleaning Syd's room. To celebrate, we left the house and went to the place where every self-respecting Arkadelphia citizen would go.
This wasn't just any day at Walmart. This was the day that the local meteorologists predicted snow. That's a big deal in the south. We all scramble to the store to buy milk, bread and potatoes.
Because that's what our mothers did, that's why.
On a really hectic snow day, the staples diminish quickly, creating panic in many shoppers.
"Will we get to see old ladies fight over the last loaf of bread?" Sydney asked. I remember that tone of voice. It was the same tone she used just weeks before when she asked, "Do you think I've been good enough for Santa to come see me?" She's heard the stories Jim and I have told about seeing old women fight for the last loaf of bread on a pre-snow day. She was hoping to witness it herself.
So I strike up conversation with her as we wait to make our way through the meat section.
"Can't we go to the bread first? I want to see the old ladies fight."
The man in the cart jam in front of us stopped and stood up straight. Slowly he glanced back. Yeah. He heard her.
So I changed the subject.
"Now, I've gone through your room and cleaned and organized. From now on, you have GOT to pick up after yourself better."
All I got was a blank look. So I hammered my point home.
"And if you don't, I'll pack up every toy left out and donate them all."
"Well you know we spent a lot of money for those toys and the receipt you get when you donate them won't be for as much so that would be a waste of money, wouldn't it?" she asked.
Hmm. Methinks she's heard me talk about tax deductions one too many times.
The guy in front of us hung his head.
I changed my approach.
"See, I don't get paid to clean your room. All that time I cleaned your room, I could have been working to buy you more things. Or we could have been playing together with the toys you already have. Either way, we could have used that time better."
"Well I don't have any money to pay you to clean my room, but I bet I can scrape up some change to give you to pay you not to throw my toys away."
The guy turned my way and smirked.
"You're missing the point. I don't want you to pay me to clean your room. I only want you to pick up after yourself so it doesn't take so long when I do clean it."
"Well, if you gave me more money I could pay you NOT to throw stuff away, but with all that time you spent cleaning my room instead of working, you probably can't afford to pay me enough to pay you to clean my room."
The man in front doubled over his cart. His shoulders were shaking.
"I DON'T WANT YOU TO PAY ME TO CLEAN YOUR ROOM. I'M YOUR MAMA. THAT'S JUST PART OF MY JOB. I JUST WANT YOU TO PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF."
"Well, if you don't want me to pay you, what do you want?"
"I WANT YOU TO PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF.''
"I'd really rather pay you to just not throw my stuff away. I'll look when we get home to see how much change I have."
The guy turned around, made eye contact and laughed.
"Come on," I said. "Let's go to the bread aisle and see if we can pick a fight with an old lady."