For the 18 months that Gram and Gramps lived in my hometown of Livermore, California, we went to the downtown toy store which was open late on Thursday nights. Gramps would say, “Anything you want,” and I would pick out a toy or a rock collection or a science set. All the while my mother was in the background suggesting I didn’t need whatever it was, and that I should go easy, i.e. get something less extravagant or better yet, nothing at all.
What stuck for me was the lovely sense that I could have whatever I wanted, and that Gramps was capable and willing to get it for me. This has influenced me my whole life. I like being generous and expansive in nature. I like giving. Gabe, our son, an only child, has a sense to this day of gentle entitlement. He is never demanding or greedy, just knows if he wants or needs something within my power to give, I will give it to him, whether it be a musical accessory, a beach vacation for the family, a used car, some new shoes, or a little cash.
Now that I have grandchildren of my own, my spoiling has reached new proportions, and Sadie, my oldest, is starting to catch on. She knows whenever we get together, we will go to the toy story and she can choose two things. She recently said, “Grandma, let’s go shopping and get two pair of shoes!” An early Christmas when she was only one and a half, I had purchased a tiny pair of Tom’s in her size. They were sparkly black. She came out and found them under the tree and put them on immediately. When her Daddy got up she pointed to her feet and said, “Shoes!” (Watch out Daddy!)
Gramps goes on to write, “It has always been a cherished belief of the author that there is a point of satiety both for individuals and communities of individuals. In fact he has introduced this thesis into learned books on the subject of marginal utility, which is the term used by economists when they discuss the theory of one’s desires. But his faith in the proposition has been somewhat shaken by Laura Lynn, who is unquestionably a very pretty young lady with an abundance of imagination.”
On a recent trip to California, Sadie suggested we go to the toy store. She chose a children’s resale store on Sunset Avenue. I borrowed the family car, and following instructions, got there. Sadie was good as gold, as we walked to the light and crossed the busy street to reach the store. Inside, I was surprised. Used stuff, not many toys.
There was a display case at the front of the store and Sadie, after saying she thought she’d get a doll, pointed to an antique baby doll and said, “I want that one.”
The doll was the old hard-shelled kind with moveable eyelids and faded baby clothes. “It’s $50,” said the clerk.
A vision of Sadie’s room flashed before my eyes. Small and crammed full of toys and clothes and books, the latest ones near the edge of the pile. I’m thinking my $50 doll will get lost in there. So I said no.
“But you’re Grandma,” said Sadie.
There ensued a discussion of money, the fact that on our last toy excursion in Santa Fe, we bought a new doll (Barbie-ish, not on the parent-approved toy list) another toy, and two things for Gemma, Sadie’s little sister, all for the price of this one doll. Sadie, ever business-like, quickly found a nice hand-made rag doll and a puzzle. I got out of there for $7 plus change.
And a load of guilt.
On the way home, we traveled around the block to avoid a U-turn in traffic and somehow got royally lost. Sadie fell asleep in her car seat as I wandered farther and farther away from home. At one point I saw downtown LA rising in front of me and realized I was way off course. So I consulted Siri. Another learning adventure including phone calls to Gabe and Holly and eventual mastery of my device and safe return home. Gabe came out and carried Sadie and her doll upstairs and that was that.
I’m still wondering if I can find that store again and purchase that antique doll. Sadie’s birthday is coming right up.