Enough Stuffs

I was in Target late last week. Again. I feel like we spend a lot of time there. Not that I’m complaining. I LOVE seeing my books there. They, among others, have been huge supporters of my paperbacks. And I am very grateful for that. But prior to my move to Florida from New York City, I had never spent much time in stores like this. Even supermarkets in the city, with the exception of the Food Emporium on 14th or some of the new Whole Foods that have cropped up since I left, are fairly small. And when I first entered my local Super Target here in Florida, my senses were overwhelmed to such a degree that I wandered the aisles in awe and finally left with nothing. All that red. All that stuff. It boggled my mind.

But I’ve moved beyond that. Way beyond. In fact, Ocean and I spend so much time there that it has become a kind of activity onto itself. Before leaving for Paris this summer, I read somewhere that it didn’t pay to put too much pressure on yourself to find the most brilliant, fascinating activity for your child every single outing, that she is just as stimulated in Target as she is at The Louvre. And I have, quite literally, found this to be true. So when the well is dry – when we’ve had our play dates, taken our walks, gone to the playground, or the aquarium, colored, read stories, played with Play Doh, or any of the other myriad things we do together, we often find ourselves wandering those big red aisles – Ocean happily munching whatever snack in her cart, me shopping for whatever it is I “need” at the moment.

There’s lots to talk about – What’s that, Mommy? That’s a giant chicken costume! What’s that? That’s a lawn fountain! What’s that? That’s an aromatherapy candle! There are plenty of “teaching moments.” I want that big pink ball! You already have a big pink ball from the last time we were here. I want a blue one. No. Why not? Because I said so.

Last week, I was looking for another polar bear for my lawn (Lawn? Lighted, moving polar bears? Oh, Toto, we are SO not in NYC anymore). We only had two – a mommy and a baby. (For some reason, whenever Ocean sees a grouping of one adult animal and one baby animal, the adult is always an assumed mommy.) And this year Ocean lamented, “Where’s the Daddy bear?” So off we went to find a daddy polar bear, as good an activity as any. Where else, I ask you, would we go but Target?

While roaming the aisles, my cart filled with various Christmas decorations — poinsettias, some dried plants and a weird little Blair Witch reminiscent Christmas tree made out of twigs and pine cones –I remembered my desire to scale back and refocus this holiday season. So I put some items back, only keeping the few things I really loved and that would add to my collection of decorations I put away at the end of each season. But there was still the polar bear – which, of course, we found. They don’t call it “super” for nothing!

On the way out, polar bear loaded, I saw something else that caught my eye. It even escapes me at the moment what it was precisely – who knows, some kind of Christmas platter, a snowman candy dish, whatever – I wondered aloud to Ocean if we wanted something like this.

Ocean said, ever sage, “We have enough stuffs Mommy.” She seemed very serious about this, even offered a grim little shake of her head.

“You are so right, kiddo,” I told her, chastened, returning the item to its place on the shelf. “Should we put back the polar bear?”

“No! We need a daddy bear!”

And it got me thinking about the “stuffs” we buy and what we want versus what we need. I feel a greater desire since Ocean arrived to decorate the house for the various events of the year, to give her a sense that we celebrate our life and the occasions that mark the passing of the year. She was so excited to put up the tree last week and hang the ornaments, to see the polar bears out on the lawn, to look at the little New York City we set up with buildings we’ve been collecting over the years – Radio City, the Flatiron, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s all just stuffs, things we don’t necessarily need to have, costing money we didn’t need to spend. But these trinkets and decorations, because they mark a season that hopefully brings us together with family and friends, that focuses our attention on giving to those we love and those in need – have a special kind of value. They bring a little bit of joy – a LOT of joy for a little girl.

I suppose the trick is knowing what is enough. For me, it’s always about finding balance. Spending and saving, giving and receiving, celebrating, while being mindful about the value of the things we buy. Our daddy polar bear represents our family, hopefully gives the people who drive by our house a little smile, a happy, Christmassy vibe. In these times when joy seems in short supply, that’s something. And even my almost-three-year-old knew that we didn’t need more.

Resolution of the Week:

Remember my reusable shopping sacks every time! Punish myself by buying more if I forget.

What I’m reading:

The Killing Circle/ Andrew Pyper

Favorite Book for Ocean:

Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly/ Jane O’Conner (writer) and Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)