Nora pulls down one of her pink piggy banks and shakes it mercilessly, the coins clanking against the ceramic in a way that makes parents question their decision to have children with arms.
“Hey,” I interrupt, “I’m going to Freddie’s. Do you want to come?”
She nods with raised eyebrows. “I like to look at the art supplies there.”
Trying to head off the inevitable requests for me to buy glitter, I say, “Why don’t you bring some of the money from your piggy bank and you can buy something for yourself?”
We talk about how much money to bring. Two dollars may not be enough to get something good, but twenty dollars would be spending too much of her savings at once. We settle on ten dollars.
Over ninety degrees outside, we are sitting in pools of sweat by the time we get to the store. I try to dawdle in the garden section, but she grabs me by the hand saying, “Can I lead you to the water section?”
I think she’s hot and wants to buy a bottle of water.
We go straight to the water toy aisle.
Nora is obsessed with water balloons. They bring together so many of her favorite things: rainbow colors, bathing suits and shrieking.
Fred Meyer sells a blue plastic bucket of water balloons and two fillers that connect to a garden hose. She spotted it one day while we were shopping for floaties and goggles. She’s talked about it for a solid month.
She points to the bucket. Six hundred water balloons in a gallon bucket. Six hundred.
“It’s 12.99 and you only brought $10.00.”
She gives my hand a squeeze and says quietly, “I could use all my money and you could help me a little.”
I have flash back to every time I mercilessly manipulated my mother into buying me plastic shit. It takes several moments.
“Let me see this thing,” I say, picking it up; pretending to inspect it for value.
Six hundred water balloons.
Once popped, this means the potential for 1200 little schnitzels of colored plastic littering my backyard.
I look into her expectant little face. “Okay,” I said. “But you have to carry the bucket through the store yourself.”
“I want to carry it,” she beams.
Examining her treasure on the ride home, she blurts, “Hey, they are trying to trick kids! There’s a big hunk of cardboard board in here with pictures of water balloons that aren’t really water balloons.”
“Yeah, but it tells you right on the package that there are six hundred. They just want to make the container look full and un-inflated balloons don’t take up much space in a big bucket.”
“Well, they’re trying to trick kids.”
“They’ll do that,” I say. In my head, I am beginning to formulate an economics slash marketing-to-kids-lecture to keep at the ready.
Later, as I weed the flower beds, she fills water balloons and loads them into her hammock. As she does, she explains that this hammock is her water balloon shop and if I want to participate in a water fight, I’ll need to pay a dollar per balloon, “And it has to be real dollars, mom.”
Six hundred water balloons.
There’s also a class I can take to learn how to fill water balloons, and then a next level course where I learn how to make the balloons themselves. With those skills, there could be job opportunities for me in her water balloon shop.
I wonder if she offers an employee discount, so I don’t have to pay a dollar per balloon.