Maya had seen the blue socks with the tacos on them the last time she was shopping with her brother. They still hung on the same display. Maybe it’s the fifteen dollar price tag that makes kids certain they are special socks. Or maybe it’s the overstuffed tacos. All meat and cheese minus the veggies.
We were shopping for Spencer’s school clothes. She asked for the socks fully expecting me to say no. The week before she had been in the hospital with cellulitis. I realized most parents would have rewarded their kid’s bravery and good behavior with a gift. All I had done was get her new crayons and pencils when she was admitted. Then the nurse put her IV in the back of her right hand. She tried for a day to write with her left hand before giving up to watch cartoons on the ancient TV bolted to the wall in front of her bed.
Maya was ecstatic when I told her she could get the socks. She wanted to hold them on the drive home, but I asked her to wait. We’d take everything out of the huge bag at home.
Spencer took each item out of the shopping bag while Maya stood aside waiting for a glimpse of her socks. One pair of jeans still had a security tag attached to the leg. The taco socks were on the receipt, but not in the bag.
We went back the next morning. The kid working in the store was only a few years older than Spencer. I showed him the receipt and explained the situation. He looked at it a long time. He made some phone calls and tried to reach the other kid who had been working the night before without success. The sensor tag was removed from the jeans. Then he asked me for my name and number and said someone would call me if they found the missing socks.
I never raised my voice. I doubt I could remember how to be angry. I leaned slightly closer and said, “I’m not leaving without the socks.”
Maya and Spencer had been standing next to me at the counter. They backed away at the same moment I saw little beads of sweat erupt on the forehead of the store clerk. He nudged the post-it and pen towards me, hoping I’d write my name and number on it and leave.
I explained that I didn’t know the logistics of his job. I was unaware of the paper trail necessary for him to do his job properly. The one which would would get rid of me. I was not leaving the store without Maya’s socks.
The poor kid was afraid of me and I thought for a moment he might cry. I wanted to take him home with my own kids and feed him a Hot Pocket. Instead, I asked him to call his manager. He told me he was a manager. My eyes must have scared him again because he made a phone call. A slightly older man with a full beard and more authority came quickly to take over. He approached me with the post-it note. I smiled.
“I’m not leaving without the socks.”
It didn’t take long at all. Maya hugged my arm and told me I was awesome. Spencer agreed, but said he’d shop online instead for a while. He laughed and told me I could be really scary sometimes.
Maya wore the blue socks with the tacos on them on the first day of school. She was right. They are very cool socks.