I love my kids


every day I miss them when they go to school


they just went back to school on January 5th after a two week winter break


they stayed home this Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


they didn’t go to school until 10:40 today, because of the snow


they came home at 2:00 today, because Wednesdays are always early release


school is cancelled tomorrow, because of the snow


they get out early on Friday, because of report cards or conferences or workshops or something or other


my house is covered with snow puddles and wet socks and dripping boots and snowy scarves and books and puzzles and cocoa-stained mugs and crumb-covered plates and kids flung all over couch, chair and floor


the close quarters were kind of cozy in December

but now

it’s kind of annoying


i really love my kids


I really need them to go back to school.

My best moment of 2011…

…took place during an unforeseen melodrama that took place at Ross Dress for Less.  Can an unforeseeen melodrama take place anywhere else?

During the week between Christmas and New Years, I got bit by the universal bug to clean out, organize, and touch up my house.  I was looking for a few odds and ends for my bedroom and wouldn’t you know it, I found myself at Ross.  (Can I get a shout out for Ross?  Who can resist?)

Within minutes of my arrival I found a perfect little glass table to set beside my bed.  I loved it, but as I examined the gilded scrolling down the side I found myself wondering: vintage  or dated?  Quirky or old lady?  I wasn’t sure, and apparently neither was the, um, old lady standing right next to me, also examining the table.  Perhaps her interest should have been my clue that the table fell under the latter category, but what do I know?  It’s been my experience with decorating and fashion that pretty much everyone else has better taste than I do, so I was ready to hear her opinion.  We stood side by side, discussing the table without taking our eyes off of it.

Me:  What do you think?

Old Lady:  I think I like it.  I don’t know.

Me:  I could stack books underneath it.

Old Lady:  Um, I don’t think so.  Books?  No.  [guffaws and shakes her head.]  Definitely not books.

Me:  [nervous giggle]  Oh yeah, you’re right.  Books wouldn’t work.  [another nervous giggle.]

I am still not sure why Old Lady thought I could not stack books under this glass table.  Was it a structural concern, or did she simply think the books would look unsightly?  I don’t know.  I only know that whatever else life throws your way, you do not want to end up in a disagreement with an old lady at Ross.  This isn’t Nordstrom, you know.  Ross breeds ’em tough.

So after what seemed hours,  I finally decided to get the table.  I picked it up and headed for one of two lines that had formed in front of the registers.  Glancing at my watch, I naturally took my place in the shortest line.  I’d been gone much longer than I’d planned and needed to get home.  I set the table down beside me and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The line wasn’t moving at all.  Why not? I wondered.  Glancing toward the register, I could only see the back of a woman’s brown ponytailed head shaking back and forth at something the cashier was saying.  Come on, I thought.  You can’t be buying anything nice enough to argue over.  I swallowed the irritation that was rising in my throat and decided to watch the cute little family in the checkout line just parallel to me.  A dad, a mom, and two little girls.  The girls were darling,  but something about the parents didn’t jive.  The wife was gorgeous–and italicizing that word doesn’t do her justice–but the dad was, well…dad-ish.  Let’s just say that Mom was a 10, and Dad was something of a 5.  6, maybe, on the Tri-Cities scale.

I couldn’t help but sneak glances at his stunning wife.  Sure, a woman usually outshines her man in the looks department (don’t tell me you’re not way hotter than your husband, you both know it’s true) but this couple defied even that prototype.  Think Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston.  Like any sensitive, inquisitive person, I looked at this couple and silently wondered:  “Dude, how much money do you make?”  But then I realized that he, too, was standing in line at Ross.  So much for that theory.

After at least ten minutes of trying to unravel this mystery while still standing in line, I decided to really find out what-the-hay was going on with the cashier up front.  I craned my neck around the person in front of me and got my answer.  Just over the counter, where I had failed to look earlier, hung a large sign that read, RETURNS ONLY.  Ka-rap.  I’d just spent half of forever standing in the wrong line.  I looked to my right at the other line–the one for purchases that beheld Mrs. 10 and Mr. 6–and saw that it had grown exponentially in the last fifteen minutes and was now snaking all the way back to Housewares.  I felt my shoulders visibly slump as I sighed.  I picked up my trashy treasure and started for the back of the other line (which was really the back of the store.)  A deep, kind voice stopped me.

“You can just get in front of me here, if you want,” he said.  I looked up.  It was Mr. 6.

“Oh, that’s okay.  I mean…are you sure?”

“Yeah, no problem.  You’ve been waiting in that line for a long time, I hate to see you go clear back to the end of this one.”  I glanced at the other waiting customers, and they all smiled and waved me in.  I slowly (and humbly, I hoped) stepped over the movie-theater style velvet rope into The Good Line.  Oh my Ross peers.  Oh how I love you.

“Thank you so much,” I said, smiling.  “You just made my day.  No, really…thank you so, so much!”  Easy Jen,  I told myself.  Don’t do the Lloyd Dobler-nervous-talking-thing.  (It’s a constant social hurdle for me.)  I forced myself to shut up while the ridiculous gratitude continued oozing from my ears, nostrils and sweat glands.  What kind of guy lets a frumpy mom take cuts at Ross?  What kind of guy goes to Ross with his wife?     What a hero.  What a man.  I looked back at his beautiful wife and thought, Hmph.  You better deserve him, woman.

I made my purchase and walked through the automatic door with a deep breath and a smile.  Suddenly everything seemed easy and orderly.  Christmas was over, the company gone, the house all clean, the glass table purchased.  I stepped into the bright January day, but not before taking a quick look behind me to see Mr. 6 through the glass doors.  He was tickling his daughter and still waiting in line.

And thus, as with our friend Mr. Scrooge, I learned some valuable lessons this holiday season:  Like the Cratchits of downtrodden London, good people can be found in the most dismal of places–even at Ross the week after Christmas.  And don’t judge people by the way they look.  And splurge once in awhile on a gilded piece of silliness, like a pretty little glass table.  It will do your heart good.