I have a story to tell you readers. It's full of drama, adventure, criminal acts, violence, shock, forgiveness, and humor.
And it all takes place in a Dollar General in Gainesville, Georgia.
Scene: Mama and four kiddos (Miss Eight, Miss Six, Miss Toddler, and Mr. Baby) are heading down the road to camp meeting. Mama has wet hair and no makeup because she wants to finish getting ready at the campground so she'll look fresh for service. As she drives, she decides she's going to be prepared to entertain her little ones during the two-hour service; so she whips into the local Dollar General. Her intentions? To get all manner of coloring books, crayons, paper dolls, and small figurines for her kiddos to quietly enjoy while absolutely NOT disturbing the adults around them who are intently listening to the singing and preaching.
Mom pulls into the parking lot, grabs a $20 bill because surely that's enough for the handful of items they will need, unloads the children in a calm and orderly fashion, and files into the store.
Four feet inside the entrance stands a rack of Frozen book bags for $8. Miss Six promptly decides she needs one for school. Mom agrees it's a good price, and agrees to think about it. Miss Six waits exactly 30 seconds before asking if Mom has made up her mind.
As she holds Mom's hand through the very narrow and very packed aisles of the DG, Miss Toddler sees a hot pink bouncy ball that she must have, because Ball. Ball. That ball. All the balls. BAAAALLLLL! B-B-B-BAAAAAALLL!
Can I get the book bag, Mom?
Ball is $.50. Mom agrees, like she's a rookie or something.
Items come flying off the shelves as Miss Toddler plays dodge ball with her sisters and her new pink ball.
Sisters take exactly 1,247,430 hours to pick out one coloring book. Meanwhile, Mr. Baby grabs the pack of crayons mom holds too closely to him. Crayon box empties all over the floor. (Seriously, it's like Mom has never held a 9 month old baby in her life.)
Mom, what about the book bag?
1,247,432 hours later, Mom (Mom! The book bag?) and four kiddos (It's only $8!) make it to the register. (The Frozen book bag. That one!) The ball only knocks 4 items off the shelf (It's Elsa AND Anna, Mom!) while they wait in line. Miss Toddler only melts down twice.
Moooom, the book bag!?
Mom decides to get the book bag. She's losing ground by the minute.
Judgy cashier side-eyes the crazy lady with no makeup and wet hair and gives the total: $20.33.
Lord help us all. Mom is $.33 short.
Miss Eight rushes out to the car to get another dollar.
Three more items fall off the shelf.
Miss Eight can't find it, or gets distracted, or forgets why she's out there, or something.
The line starts backing up behind Mom and kids. Four. Five. Six people.
Mom can't leave the store with all kiddos in tow, and judgy cashier is waiting. Mom does the only thing she can think of at the time.
Mom goes to the door, and yells across the parking lot, "Miss Eight!!!! Let's go!!!"
Person #3 in line says, "Oh, Lord." Thank you for that valuable input, Person #3 in line.
Mom turns around to walk back into the store, all eyes on her. Only they're not on her. They're on Miss Toddler, who's running through the open door with an arm full of candy she knocked off the shelf with her pink ball.
Mom, with no makeup, wet hair, baby on hip, yelling from the front door of the store, grabs Miss Toddler with one hand, drags her back into the store kicking and screaming, pries every. single. piece of candy from her little clammy hands, takes the $1 from Miss Eight, pays the judgy cashier, grabs the bless-ed aggravating Frozen book bag, the pink ball, the two coloring books, the random loose crayons, tells the judgy cashier to keep the change, drags Miss Toddler back out the door, and loads all four kids into the car - but not without a few threats and disciplinary actions towards Miss Toddler, who refuses to get into her car seat without her new pink ball.
Person #2 and #3 in line have now checked out and are standing next to their cars watching the crazy lady load her poor kids into the minivan, no doubt taking a mental snapshot of her license plate should they be asked to testify later.
30 minutes later, Mom and kiddos walk into service. Mom has fresh makeup and clean hair. Kiddos are quiet and polite as they color in their coloring books during the two-hour service. The sweet white-haired ladies at the campground comment on how well mom handles her children and how sweet their little family is.
And the moral of this story?
Don't assume the redneck mama at the Dollar General is a terrible parent.
Don't assume the sweet mama with the perfect kids has her act together.
And for the love of all that is good and right, GIVE A MAMA $.33 WHEN SHE NEEDS IT.