by Samantha Ryan
Hoffman’s Department store always did steady business around the holidays. This Christmas was no different. Being the largest retailer in town had it perks. They offered the widest array of items; from lawn mowers to dinner plates; bedding, decor and the latest electronics; children’s clothing shoes and toys. Hoffman’s was the first place anyone in town went shopping usually. Last June, however, the town had been hit by the loss of the canning factory which had employed nearly half of the residents at one time or another.
In response to declining sales, Hoffman’s managers had set out a series of sales to cycle through the season. The local residents had responded, happily buying out each item featured. This week’s item had been the “Princess Elena” doll that came with an additional ballgown and riding habit. They had sold all but one by lunch time. The manager and staff were searching furiously for it, knowing that the inventory count had been done just before opening, so it had to be somewhere in the store or it had been stolen.
Around the registers several middle aged women stood. They set down their bags and gotten comfortable waiting for the doll to be found. Each woman had a complaint or gripe to loudly share with the other every time a store employee passed.
“You know, Sheryl, this store ain’t got the customer service it used to. Used to be, you could come in and you was treated like royalty but now they ain’t got the time of day for you. They just don’t train them no more.”
“Oooh, I know, girl. Listen, last year we bought Bobby’s cleats here and they were just awful! Gave him blisters so bad he almost missed a game, ‘cuz he couldn’t walk hardly. I brought them back but they wouldn’t give me a refund. Said he wore them too much. I ask you how could we know they was poor quality without actually wearing them? I was so mad!” replied Sheryl.
Across the aisle from the toy section was the outdoor sport section. A miniature campsite had been erected with chairs, a lantern and a four person tent. A chess set had been placed on the foot stool in between the chairs and a book on the arm of one. The ruckus was being listened to intently from inside the tent. Quietly she laid face to face with Princess Elena. She stroked her hair and arranged her gown so it wouldn’t wrinkle.
“My bed ain’t very big, but we both can fit. You’ll like it ‘cuz its got butterflies on the covers. We’ll have to watch out for Joshie, that’s my little brother. He’s a real pest, but he’s just a baby. I don’t want him messing you up. Oh, and I can’t wait to show you to Lizzie. She’s my second best friend next to you. She is gonna die when she sees I got you. ”
Though “Princess Elena” didn’t respond, she seemed to understand and approve. The girl turned over onto her tummy just as an employee walked past. The shuddering tent caught his eye. Swiftly he moved across the aisle and zipped open the tent door. He stared incredulously at the girl and the doll.
He reached in to grab the girl by the arm. She scooted backwards as fast as she could, clutching Princess Elena. “Get on outta there, right now! This tent is not for playing in.” said the man as he made another grab for her, this time succeeding. “What have we got here? So this is where that doll has been the whole time!”
The girl hugged the doll like a vice, preventing the man from retrieving it. “No! She’s mine!” cried the girl fiercely.
“Where are your parents? I have people waiting for this doll. If you haven’t bought it, you’re gonna have to hand it over.” insisted the man. ” Now tell me, where’s your Momma?”
The girl refused to speak to him, instead trying to shake free of his hold on her arm. Tears began dropping from her eyes and coursed down her cheeks. The man started to pry the girl’s hands from the doll forcefully.
“No! You can’t have her! She’s mine! She’s my birthday present.” sobbed the girl. Her tangled sandy hair fell into her eyes and she swiped it back. “My Daddy said to wait. He’s coming to buy her, I promise. Please!” With her last plea the man wrenched the doll free, and let go of the girl. She crumpled to the floor, a heap of elbows, knees and ill fitting clothing. One sneaker had fallen off and the other was untied. Her small body heaved with despair as she watched the man walk the doll over to the waiting women who were watching with disdain.
From behind, two big hands scooped the girl up and cradled her. “Daddy, I tried to hide like you said, but he t-t-took her!” said the girl in between hiccups.
“Shhhhh. It’s okay darlin’. Let’s see if we can fix this.” he replied.
The man approached the counter with the girl in his arms. “Excuse me, but I believe you have my daughter’s doll.”
The clerk looked up and quickly adjusted his face from contempt to surprise. The man holding the girl stood towering above him by a foot and a half. “I’m sorry sir, but this woman has been waiting for this doll while we searched. Your daughter was caught playing in the display tents, unattended.”
“I understand you had customers wanting the doll. It was great sale. I can’t afford a whole lot, but my girl has had a tough year. We lost her mama in a car wreck just before Christmas last year. I can’t do much to fix that, but I’m gonna buy her this doll for her birthday. I just had to borrow some money and I came right back.” the man pleaded. “C’mon man, she was holding the doll!”
Having noted the scene, the manager came over to handle the situation. “Is this true, Gene? The girl was holding the doll?” asked the manager. “Yes sir, but she said her parents weren’t here. I had this lady right here waiting.” The manager looked from the employee to the woman to the man holding the girl.
The woman was shaking her head and reaching for her wallet. “No, no! I don’t need this doll that bad. You can have your doll, honey.” She placed a ten dollar bill on the counter and looked at her friend who was dabbing at her eyes. “Happy Birthday, sweetheart. We’re so, so sorry about your Mommy.” and the women turned and left.
The manager hurriedly scanned the doll and handed her back to the girl who hugged her like she was a life raft. The man paid the balance. “You might consider speaking to your employees about not handling other people’s children. Have a good day.”
In 2008, she lost her health and mobility and home over a four-month period. Finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Samantha and her son relocated to Decatur, GA. Using a paleo diet and lifestyle template, Samantha rebuilt her business and transformed her life. Embracing mindfulness and positive parenting in addition to a paleo lifestyle, transformed Samantha’s parenting.
Samantha lives in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, with her son. Samantha shares what she has learned about mindful parenting, chronic illness, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder with grit and humor. She’s obsessive about food; makes people cry with words; and walks into door frames. She’s a voracious reader and loves dance parties in the kitchen.
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