A couple of years ago, as I was weaving in and out of the aisles at Trader Joe's, I was approached by an employee. This is not at all unusual. When I go grocery shopping, I look like a woman in need of assistance. (There was one time in particular when I wasn't even given an option. As I prepared to leave the checkout counter, the cashier said, "T.J. will help you out today." T.J. grabbed my cart. And off I went with T.J.) So anyway, I am accustomed to employees hanging around -- retrieving lost flip-flops, providing colorful balloons, offering lollipops, digging through boxes to find the new shipment of chocolate chips -- you name it.
But this time, I was approached by an employee with a camera. Now, I've always dreamed of stardom. Thankful that I had applied lipstick, I greeted her with a smile and batted the lashes. She smiled back and looked at the four children buzzing around me. "Do you think they would be willing to pose for a picture?" she asked.
My stardom bubble did not burst. It grew. "Why, yes! I'm sure they would," I answered for them. I gave several meaningful nods with raised eyebrows in the general direction of my wee brood. They shrank back in horror. A picture? In public? How humiliating!
I couldn't imagine what was wrong with them and suggested they reconsider. The employee explained that they hoped to use a picture of some kids for a display in the store. Mine were the only kids around -- would they please do it? All they had to do was put on a Trader Joe's shirt and hold a box of cookies. Drew vanished. I wasn't surprised, and I didn't intend to pursue. Avery attempted to crawl back into the womb. She's a very fragile creature. I crossed her off the list.
That left two more. Zeroing in on Bethie and Aidan, I told them how much fun it would be to have their picture up in the store. Once they caught on to the idea, they bashfully agreed. They did their bit of modeling, and were paid in cookies. This was a very satisfactory arrangement in their eyes.
The real thrill, however, came during our next shopping excursion. We checked every aisle for the snapshot, expecting to see it quaintly framed in a little corner of the store. Imagine our surprise when we turned down one of the last aisles to find, perched above the baking section, an entire billboard featuring my peeps. It was glorious.
I'm afraid I was a bit obnoxious as I stood there for quite some time, hoping that passers-by would notice that the lovely children at my side bore a remarkable resemblance to the famous children plastered above the sea salt. "Isn't this fun, Bethie?" I commented (loudly). "Look at you up there!" I added (loudly). "Aidan! Can you believe it?" I marveled (loudly).
I couldn't wait to pass on the big news to friends and family. "Next time you're at Trader Joe's, look for Bethie and Aidan in the baking aisle!" They did, got a kick out of it, and passed on the news to others.
This continued for about two years. Over time, I calmed down and was able to pass through the baking aisle without creating a spectacle. We still glanced up and smiled, but were content to keep our voices at a fairly decent volume.
A few weeks ago, my mom mentioned to a friend that her grandchildren were at Trader Joe's and to be sure and look them up -- er, look up at them. So the friend looked. And looked. And looked. My children were nowhere to be seen. The kind friend mentioned this to an employee, who said that they were making some changes. However, if the mother of the children would like to have the board, she would be welcome to it.
When this news was relayed to me, I immediately thought, "Of course I would like to have it! My babies!" I didn't really stop to consider what I might do with the board. Perhaps put it up in one of their rooms? So the next time I was in the store, I approached an employee about retrieving my children. She was happy to oblige and proceeded to pull down the board. She pulled. And pulled. And pulled. Funny. It didn't seem so big when it was way up there by the ceiling. She kept pulling. Finally, it was out. I immediately dismissed the idea of putting it in Aidan's room. But I was too embarrassed to say, "Oh, never mind." So I assigned Bethie and Aidan each to an end, and out the door, through the parking lot they walked with themselves.
We somehow managed to get it into the van. When we got it home, there was no place to put it. I questioned my sanity. I finally just propped it up against the wall in the entry way. It made a lovely conversation piece for a number of days.
I have since removed my children from the entryway. They are now stored cozily under the living room couch -- a perfect fit. Whenever we want to put together a puzzle, do some major coloring or stack up the dominoes, out come my board children to provide us with a nice, smooth surface. When we're done, back under they go. I sure am glad they fit. It would have been a pity to leave them at the store.