penny in a castle

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Today I opened the eighth day of my advent calendar and found…a poinsettia.

Each year our school collects items for the food bank.  Each grade is assigned to pick up a specific type of item and bring it in.

This is an important activity for the kids – they need to know that Christmas is about helping others.  It’s not about the receiving – it’s about the giving.  To me, it’s not about picking items from the back of the cupboard either (Nobody wants or deserves Crap Dinner, Questionable Canned Stew or Calcified Chickpeas).  I want the kids to pick stuff that has meaning to them – something that they like so that they understand better that too many people go without it.  Usually I try to bring them with me, and have them pick out their favourites.  It’s a bit like a three ringed circus in a grocery cart, but it’s worth it.

This year though, I ran out of time. We had too many activities and multiple melt downs. I needed to shop for the food bank, the school breakfast and the work pot luck all the same time.  I cut my losses and asked each child about their favourites.  Diva had jam as her item. “What’s your favourite?” I asked.  “Raspberry first. Then strawberry.  Then blueberry. Then peach. Peach is my fourth favourite.”  That, I thought, is a lot of favourites.  Stuntboy had soup and crackers.  I know the kids love what they call “round crackers” – cracked wheat Breton crackers – so a no brainer there. But what about soup? “What is your favourite?” I asked.  Stuntboy said, “The kind with the noodles. No vegetables.”  Okay, so chicken noodle (but I will get the ones with veggies). I know Diva’s favourite is tomato, so a couple of those would hit the spot as well.  Stitch had “Tuna or canned food.”  What does that mean? Tuna is tuna and it comes in a can if it isn’t swimming in the ocean (Have you ever seen a tuna in real life? I have. It’s an enormous fish.  It’s hard to imagine an animal so grand in a can so small).

I left my family behind and went out to the grocery story, list in hand for food banks, and breakfasts and potlucks oh my.  Zooming up and down the aisles.  Do these muffins have nuts?  Is this real fruit juice?  Is this tuna packed in water?  Is the President’s version of a cracker as good as a Breton version? Why do they not put the Pataks curry beside all the other curry?

It takes a lot longer than I expect to get to the cash.  My husband often laughs at me because it takes me two hours what it would take him 20 minutes to shop for.  I read the labels.

When I get to the cash register I’m a bit frazzled.  I start trying to unload and bag everything at the same time. The cashier tells me I’ve spent over a certain limit so I get a free poinsettia.  “Do you want one?” she asks. I’m bagging jam and tuna.  “Sure, okay,” I mumble, not really paying attention, but secretly pleased I am getting deal.  Diva will be happy, I think. She’s asked for years why we don’t get a poinsettia.  “Because we kill every plant that comes into this house,” I tell her.

I turn to look at the cashier as she brings back the poinsettia and can’t stop her quickly enough as she rings it in.  Good lord, it’s gigantic.  It’s like the mutant plant that ate Chicago.  Feed me Seymour!  What on earth am I going to do with that?  And then I think – I am going to donate it to someone more worthy than I.  Frankly, because I just don’t know what to do with it.

Driving home I think of all the people more worthy than I.  People at work.  Neighbours. Church. The school.  Somebody has to be.

When I get home, I enter the house poinsettia first.  My husband goggles.  I explain how we managed to become its lucky owner and how we can find someone else to be the lucky owner.    Surprisingly, he disagrees.  “We have never had a poinsettia in our house. Let’s keep it. And Diva will love it.” I’m gobsmacked. I thought he would be the first in line to try to get rid of it. I try to convince him that there are much better care takers for gargantu-plant. He takes the scissors and carefully cuts the plastic, unleashing the plant creature.  We both stare at it. It’s bigger than a Christmas tree.  We are talking Jack and the Beanstalk territory.

“We’re keeping it,” he said.


Written by pennyinacastle

December 9, 2014 at 4:36 am

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