Excuse me," a lady with brown hair and a furrowed forehead said as she pushed past me, buggy and all, where I stood in the aisle happily staring at the baby dolls lined up on the shelves. Squishy dolls, ones in pink pajamas and ones that could talk. There was even one that would eat, cry, whine and go, ahem, poopie.
Well, I'll be darned.
As amazed and confused as I was at the selection of baby dolls these days, the lady with the brown hair and furrowed forehead was even more distressed.
"#%&^!," she said. Oh, my. Not in front of the baby dolls.
"Sorry," she mumbled in my direction as she pushed and poked through the boxes of dolls lined up on the shelves. "I... can't... find... it." The furrow on her forehead grew deeper by the second. That's when I knew. She was on the verge of a full-blown Christmas meltdown, and I could almost smell the fear and anguish that only 15-visits-to-every-store-within-a-50-mile-radius-and-three-hours-online-looking-for-the-one-(only)-thing-a-sweet-innocent-youngster-asked-for-for-Christmas stress can produce. And she had it bad.
I remember those days. Oh, I remember all too well driving to Wal-Mart nearly 10 years ago to score a stuffed, battery-operated Pokemon that made squeaky noises, only to discover that the very last one in the entire store was sitting in a buggy being pushed by a woman wearing bedroom shoes. "That's the last one," the store clerk told me as he pointed to the woman shuffling off.
"#&^!" I said.
"Sorry," I mumbled to the clerk.
I'd been looking for that Pokemon for weeks, the only thing my baby boy really, truly wanted for Christmas. I was desperate. I was on the verge of my own full-blown Christmas meltdown. I was delusional. I... wondered...
What would happen if I accidentally switched buggies with the woman wearing bedroom shoes and I accidentally didn't notice the switch until after I'd accidentally paid for the Pokemon, accidentally wrapped it, and my son had accidentally opened it Christmas morning and accidentally played with it? I couldn't return it then, not after he'd already played with it. Accidentally.
That wouldn't be right.
Oh, don't worry. I couldn't do it.
I wonder if my own mama ever had a Christmas meltdown because she couldn't find something? Did she travel all over creation to find my $6 Million-Man? After all, that was the year everybody wanted a crippled test pilot rebuilt with nuclear powered limbs and implants who was serving as a secret intelligence agent. I'm sure they were hard to come by.
Did she mutter "@%&^!" when she couldn't find the human-size Barbie head with the sky blue eyeshadow and real imitation fake hair that you had to be careful not to blow dry with a hot hair dryer because it would burst into flames? Was she ever tempted to defraud an innocent woman in bedroom shoes just so she could give me my Playdoh Fun Factory?
I may never know.
Then again, there is the year I recall not getting Stretch Armstrong, the smushy action figure whose arms and legs you could stretch as far as four feet. Everybody wanted one. And to think if I'd gotten one and still had that Stretch Armstrong today, I could fetch over $200 on Ebay. And it doesn't even eat, cry, whine or go, ahem, poopie.
Well, I'll be darned. $200?
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.