It finally happened. I’ve been dreaming about it for two years now, perhaps even longer. Before even giving birth, this was the scene I always imagined. I didn’t want to hope for it too much. I didn’t want to force the fantasy. But last week as I sat on the couch sorting through mail my daughter stumbled into the room toting an overstuffed basket full of fake fruits and vegetables.

“Let’s play store,” she said.

My heart leapt.

I tried to keep my cool…but store, she wanted to play freakin’ STORE!!! Store was my absolute, very best, super-duper all time favorite game growing up. If you’d presented me with a double-decker ice cream cone or a game of store, I would have chosen store.  I liked being cashier the best, and shelf stocker next, and shopper last, but now, after so many years without this sacred game, I was prepared to take any role my daughter offered me.

As a child, I spent countless hours behind a fake register.  My first venture in “store” was a small produce stand in my mother’s closet. Next, I expanded my operations and sold the free stamps that came in the mail. I’d take them with me everywhere. “Selling stamps for free,” I’d call out to anyone who passed by. Next I opened a perfumery. I spent the entire summer gathering fallen flower petals and then soaked them in a bucket until they rotted. “It’s perfume,” I proudly announced when the petals had finally disintegrated into a soupy mush. My mom grabbed a bunch of empty Mazola butter tubs and I filled them up with my noxious concoction. Then, I went door-to-door offering samples to all the neighbors.  I made a killing. Following this I opened a fake travel agency with my little sister. We made brochures and luggage tags and maps.

“I wanna go somewhere warm and crazy,” one of us would say as we gestured over a giant atlas.

“Well I know just the place,” the other would respond.

After a summer spent in the water I opened a swim club in the bathroom. I called it “The Wet and Dry Place.” I taught lessons, conducted CPR on my dolls, and even had a fake romance with an imaginary male lifeguard named Skyler. It was so dreamy.

Mid-way through second grade I color-coded my books with little stickers and opened a library in my bedroom. I even acquired a stamp that marked the book’s due date. I’ve got friends from elementary school who still have unreturned books.

I’m going to retire on those fines.

Other business ventures included a laundry service, a for-profit charter school, an animal hospital, a mini-mall, a scenic train, a small community theatre, and a cabbage patch kid farm (we actually farmed children just like Xavier Roberts). I even remember the song we used to sing as we pretended to rake the dolls up like they were some sort of root vegetable, “Cabbage Patch children in the field. Water them! Grow them! Make them real!

No matter what the venture, my mother always met my request for stamps or typewriters or conveyor belts with utter enthusiasm. “Let’s see what we can make,” she’d say as she disappeared into the basement and inevitably came back with pulleys and gears and plastic piping and dowel rods. “This should do it,” she’d exclaim with excitement. And would then proceed to fashion some mind blowing device. If someone were to ask me to sum up my mom I’d probably say that she was the MacGyver of kid inventions. If we were playing instrument shop she could whip up a kazoo out of a toilet paper role and some wax paper and drum out of a balloon and a tin can. One time I watched her dive into a dumpster to retrieve a two liter bottle that she then magically transformed into a terrarium for our “Pet and Plant” store.

So when I imagined the mom I someday wanted to become, I’d always picture myself behind a shoebox register. Store was the place I’d try to be the same magician that my mother was to me.

“You go behind the counter”, my daughter instructs me as she unloads the contents of her basket onto the coffee table. She’s got a synthetic version of every item in the food pyramid and she is ready to shop.

“Behind the counter…” I repeat with anxious anticipation, “Does that mean I get to be the cashier?”

“Yes,” she says.

“One minute,” I squeak as I run to grab a cardboard box, “Just wait till you see this!”

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