It's Easter Sunday afternoon and I'm braving the crowds at Albertson's grocery store because I forgot to get my parents a card. I'm old school; I still like real cards instead of e-stuff on special occasions. So, on my way to Easter dinner I stand before the picked over card section of strays with mismatched envelops, folded corners or too much glitter. I'm a bad daughter.
I finally find a nice card tucked behind a ghastly one and walk towards check-out. I'm walking upstream. Everyone comes at me with carts full of ham, wine, produce and other feast fixings. I swerve left and right, dodging wild-eyed shoppers rushing to complete their lists.
I try to pick the fast lane. All the lines look the same so I pick my favorite number, cashier #9. A young mother with a small boy waits in front of me. She shifts from one foot to the other. The boy waits quietly, occasionally leaning against his mom's legs. He is maybe four, with sandy blond hair and faded jeans. As we approach the cashier, the woman puts her items on the conveyor belt. She separates food from paper goods, putting a divider between the two groups. She finishes quickly. Her cart is only half full.
Her son looks at the barrage of candy on display at his eye level. He fingers a Cadburry creme egg but puts it back as his mom nudges him forward. The cashier rings up the first part of her order, the food. The woman fiddles with something inside her purse. As she digs into her bag, the boy peeps above the counter top at the cashier, an older woman with long white hair and bright red lipstick:
Cashier: Hi there, honey! How are you?
Cashier: Happy Easter! What did the Easter bunny bring you this morning?
Boy: He didn't come to my house.
The cashier's smile drops, her eyes widen a little, she looks at the woman, opens her mouth and closes it, then gives a tight-lipped smile. The woman hands her something that I believe are food stamps. The cashier processes the order and begins checking the second half. I see paper plates, towels and toilet paper.
As she prepares to pay, the cashier locks her drawer and says, "Just a second folks, if you don't mind. Just a second," and walks to the florist island a short distance away. She speaks to a female employee there and they huddle together for a second. Moments later, the cashier returns holding a small prepacked Easter basket with a blue stuffed bunny and some candy:
Cashier: Well, look here! I believe this is your basket, honey. He must've gotten lost! Easter bunny needs GPS or something! If it's okay with mom, you go on take this.
The boy gasps a little and smiles wide. His mother nods slightly and he reaches both hands up for the basket. The mother says thank you in little more than a whisper and whisks him away.
"That was very nice of you," I say to the cashier.
"Good Lord," she says. "Good Lord. I wish I hadn't said anything at all - "
"Yeah," says the man behind me. "He'll want to check the grocery store at Christmas! Hahaha!"
No one laughs.