Shopping With Tess Always Leaves Me Inspired

Deborah Welky


I hope everyone had a happy Valentine’s Day and, if you are madly in love and/or have children or grandchildren, I know you did. I was pushing my 4-year-old granddaughter Tess down the greeting card aisle last week when she flung out a hand, grabbed a valentine from the rack, and said, “I want to get this for my brother.”

I slowed down the stroller and looked at what she had seemingly randomly grabbed — it was the perfect card. We continued on, and she snagged another one “for mommy and daddy,” much as a frog snags a moving fly from the air. On this one, both sentiment and artwork were also perfect. Considering the kid can’t read, I was in awe.

Of course, Tess has been a super-shopper since the day she was born. I didn’t realize it until she was about two, learning to talk, and pieced together three words she knew in order to say, “I have that” while pointing at a little girl wearing a tutu.

“You don’t have a tutu, Tess,” I said. But then I realized she meant “I want that” or, more correctly, “I will have that” because, today, she has a tutu for every day of the week. She wears them with leggings and asks to have her hair put up “in a bundle.” Maybe she’s a budding ballerina. In the meantime, we shop.

The first time I took her to a mall, she pieced together, “Is this a mall? I love the mall!” and did an impromptu happy dance — in her tutu, of course.

Right now, our mall shopping trips are centered around three things — the children’s clothing store, the play area and the hot pretzel stand. If her 6-year-old brother is along, we include a stop at an automated drink machine where, for two dollars, he can watch a metal arm go to the bottle or can of his choice, and send it rumbling down the chute. Half the time, he’s not even thirsty; it’s more like a pinball machine to him.

I spend a little money on the kids whenever we’re at the mall, but their mother makes sure they bring their own money. If they want to “waste money” on a drink machine, they have to use their own money to do it.

The kids earn this money by selling lemonade or, more recently, cookies at the end of their driveway. In about an hour and a half, the cookie sale raked in $42. Their father kept a watchful eye over them while their mother spent her time in the kitchen, hurriedly baking batch after batch of cookies. At the end of the day, she told the kids, “You know, cookie dough isn’t free. What about the cost of goods sold? What about my pay?”

They stepped out of earshot to discuss it, then gave her a dollar. That’s quite a return on investment!

They’re also good at saving their money. When Tess’s mother asked how much she was going to spend at the mall, Tess answered, “Nothing.”

“Good girl.”

“I’m going to spend your money.”

That didn’t work out like Tess had hoped, but in shopping as in valentines, “It’s the thought that counts.”