Thursday, July 19, 2012


The kids and I love Costco, and I’m always secretly happy when I notice our stack of Kirkland-wet-wipes dwindling because this means it’s time for a Costco run. (Um, I’m aware of how incredibly lame the previous sentence makes me sound, but for the sake of authenticity, I’ll resist the urge to delete.) I guess it’s just that Costco is always such a bustling, cheerful place.

Invariably, the kids and I have a fun time when we’re there. Except for this one time…

As we’re pulling into the parking lot, I jokingly (JOKINGLY!) said to the boys that if we found enough yummy free samples, I wouldn’t have to make them lunch when we got home. Much to my horror, Jake felt the need to repeat this statement to the Ravioli Sample Lady in front of a whole bunch of people.

There we are, at the front of the always-eager sampling crowd, and Jake, after taking one sample, reaches for an additional one for Josh, explaining to the woman with a casual shrug of his shoulders that he needs to get one for his brother too, because “my Mom says this is our lunch.”

I cringe. Then I laugh awkwardly as I realize that my explanation to Ravioli Sample Lady (along with the rest of the listening crowd) of “it was only a joke” merely confirms that this poor, deprived child was indeed repeating something he had heard his mother say.

For me, this would have been enough Costco drama for one visit, but our departure brought more.

We’re in the exit line, the place where the Exit Employee verifies that the items on the receipt correspond to the items in the shopping cart. One time, months ago now, a receipt-verifying employee drew a happy face on the back of the receipt for the boys. Ever since, Jake and Joshua argue over who gets to hold the receipt on the way out and they always politely asks the employee to draw them a happy face. (The system we’ve developed is this: one of the boys gets to enjoy the thrill of holding and ‘showing’ the membership card on the way into the store, and the other one gets to hold and show the receipt on the way out. Equal fun for everyone.)

So here we are, in a long line at the exit, and Jake pleasantly asks the lady if she would draw him a happy face. She says that she’d be delighted to do so, flips over the receipt, and starts drawing. We’re accustomed to a quick circle, two dots for eyes with a line underneath, and, voila, a happy face. Unfortunately, this sweet lady decided to attempt something much fancier.

I watch Jake’s apprehensive expression as the marker flies back and forth over the receipt and she draws more and more squiqqles and dots and lines. She finishes her artwork and hands it back to Jake with a proud smile. He looks at it, and I can tell he is utterly disappointed. This is, of course, all happening in mere moments. I watch as Jake's eyes lift back up from this crazy/fancy happy face to the ‘artist’, and he simply says “this does NOT look like a happy face.” I’m quick to intervene (though clearly should have been quicker): “Jake, that is really unkind. She drew you a lovely face and you should be thankful.” He shows me the receipt. “But Mom, look at it. It’s NOT a happy face. It doesn’t look like anything at all!!” And he is right. It is a crazy drawing of something… indecipherable. But that isn't the point. My voice lowers. “Jacob. Say thank you. Right. Now.” Jake, practically on the verge of tears at this point, musters up an extremely subdued ‘thank you.’ I offer an apology and my own subdued words of thanks, and we hurriedly move out.

Costco: a place to learn life lessons on gratitude amid disappointment, and on never repeating your mother’s jokes.