Souvenir Shopping and Sweet Old Men
It was going to be "browsing" rather than "shopping."
We were meandering through a small shop full of the usual souvenir suspects. I was poring over postcards with Ramona when I heard an unmistakable sound. Something had broken. I glanced over and saw that it was my daughter, not someone's else errant child, who had the mortified look on her face. I rushed over.
"What happened?" I asked Anne, who had the look of a deer caught in the headlights.
"I don't know," she said, as if in shock. "I was looking at this pretty candle, and I ... dropped it, and ...." her voice trailed off as together we looked at a broken shot glass on the shelf below.
"Was it already chipped like that?" I asked her.
"I don't know ... I don't think so," she said, clearly horrified.
"Well, then, we need to go show it to the clerk and pay for it," I told her.
"I'm so sorry, Mom!" she burst out. "I didn't mean to break it!"
"I know you didn't," I told her, "but we can't just leave it here. We need to tell them."
We made our way to the cash register with the broken shot glass, a rather tacky little piece of business with "Got Ghosts?" imprinted on one side, and a picture of ghosts and the words, "Gettysburg does" on the other (we were so put off by all the tourist-y ghost stuff in Gettysburg -- such a sad trivialization of the horrors of war.)
Atticus presented it to the elderly gentleman behind the counter, and said, "My daughter accidentally broke this, and we need to pay you for it."
Misunderstanding, the sweet gentleman said, "Oh, well, go back and get one that isn't chipped!"
Atticus said, "No, I'm sorry, you've misunderstood me. We didn't plan to buy it, but we've broken it and want to pay you for it."
It took a moment for this to sink in, but then the sweet gentleman shook his head and said, "Ohhh, noooo ... we'll just pretend that we broke it. Don't you worry about it one bit. No, no, no."
I was touched. I'd been all ready to teach my daughter a lesson in consequences and she'd suddenly been excused, had become the recipient of undeserved grace. She was redeemed, her debt paid. I wanted somehow to pay the man back for this sweep of forgiveness, so I immediately turned around to hunt for something we could buy. Directly behind me were the most adorable prairie bonnets, for only $5. I had each of the girls pick one out, and also grabbed a couple of souvenir documents, too (who doesn't need another copy of the Gettysburg address, after all?) and some postcards. Mr. Sweetest Clerk in the World couldn't comprehend that we would leave the shotglass behind, and he wouldn't hear of it, so he tucked it into our bag, chipped piece and all, and said, "Maybe you can glue it together and still enjoy it."
At first I thought, "Oh, he just doesn't get it. We don't want the shotglass. We never wanted the shotglass." But in the end, he was right. I will enjoy it -- not as the kind of souvenir it was meant to be, but as a souvenir of the kindness of a gentle man in a small store in Pennsylvania during the Summer Trip of '08.
Anne was immensely relieved at the outcome of the entire incident, of course, but we did have a little talk about shopping. I informed her that she'd just learned three valuable lessons:
1. Be extra careful around the breakable stuff, even when you already think you're being very careful.
2. If that man hadn't been so kind, she'd be out $5.
3. Most people are kind, despite what you read in the paper.
After pretzels and chocolate, we headed for Lancaster, PA and the Family Centered Learning Conference ....
Got bonnets? We do.