Caroline turned "3!" on September 3rd. We hosted a Princess Party the Saturday before her birthday. Caroline chose to invite 5 girls and 2 boys. I ran into the dilemma of whether or not boys should be invited to a girl, Princess Party. Thankfully, we came up with the idea to have the boys come as Pirates so that they could pretend they were "crashing" the Princess Party. The mothers of the boys (one a mother of 5 and the other a mother of 4) were awesome and managed to get their boys excited about coming to Caroline's party. The fact of the matter is that the first two names Caroline had on the invite list were the two boys (yep, Ben thought that meant trouble as well).
Three weeks leading up to the party, I was pulled aside by one of the boys' moms and told that while she was teaching Caroline's class at church, Caroline let her in on a little secret. The mom (Rebekah) had been telling Caroline that Joshua (her son) was excited about her upcoming birthday party. Rebekah asked Caroline if all of the girls were going to "dress" as princesses, and Caroline with excitement in her eyes said, "YES!, but not me...(pause) I'm going to be the "mermaid." When Rebekah told me this, I laughed (you know kids do say the darndest things - Caroline included). I told Rebekah that we already had a Princess costume and that I was certain that Caroline was just saying that because she had been watching and reading about Ariel, the Little Mermaid, lately. I was sure that Caroline would grow more excited about her princess costume over the next few weeks and that this whole "mermaid" thing was a fleeting thought.
BOY! Was I wrong!! For the next three weeks, all Caroline talked about was Mermaids; however, she still never mentioned that she was going to "be" a Mermaid at her birthday party. Finally, the Sunday before her party, I started trying to get her to try on and get excited about her princess costume. And that's when it happened...the tears, the break down, and finally the outburst that she was NOT going to be a princess but that she was going to be "THE Mermaid!"
Ben and I talked later that night, and with compassion in his eyes, Ben told me that his baby girl was going to be a Mermaid if that is what she wanted to be -- he would make sure of it. He and I both agreed that the party (time, money and effort) would be in vain if on that day we had a teary eyed princess have no fun at her own party.
So with that decision made, the hunt was on...I (yes, even though daddy was making sure Caroline was happy, the hunt was left to me) started searching ebay, craigslist, target, party city, etc for the perfect Mermaid costume (the hard part, Caroline was aware that Mermaids have "tails" and most of the costumes out there are simply Princess Ariel costumes w/out a tail). ebay left me discouraged since the price was right but shipping costs would more than double the final prince. The Disney Store liked their costume a little too much and priced it at a whopping $50 (something I just couldn't swallow).
Then on Monday, I discovered the "perfect" costume while searching online at toysrus.com. I started making phone calls to the area stores in the morning and was disappointed to discover that every store in the Athens/Atlanta area was showing an inventory of "0." One store (the one in Duluth) gave me a glimmer of hope when they said their computer showed "1" on hand, but that they would have to confirm it on the floor. The sales clerk (Bobby) said he would call me if he found it on the floor.
I got the call around 1pm that Bobby had located the costume. I whipped out my credit card prepared to pay over the phone, prior to pick-up. But Bobby stopped me in my haste and told me that it was Toys R Us' policy that they customers could not prepay for items or request that items be held. I told Bobby that I understood he couldn't hold it but that I would appreciate it if he would at least "hide" it and "guard" it! He laughed and said that he seriously doubted that anyone else would come in the store looking for a Mermaid costume before 5pm on a Monday. I assured him I would be there by 5pm and called Ben thrilled that I had found "the" costume!
After work, we headed straight to the store. In all my haste, I forgot that Babies R Us is not next to Toys R Us in Duluth like it is in Buford...so we arrived at the wrong store. I couldn't recall where Toys R Us was so I ran in Babies R Us to ask. While there I went ahead and perused there costumes but did not find the one I was looking for. We then headed straight to Toys R Us (it was 5 minutes until 5pm when we arrived). We ran in, perused the costumes and when we didn't find the Mermaid one I had seen online, I was not surprised. I was actually relieved. I figured my boy, Bobby, had done his job and hidden the costume from the general public.
I proceeded to the front while Ben continued to search through the costumes on the floor. I asked the first salesman I came to where I could find Bobby. He pointed to the only guy checking customers out. I went up to his line and decided to be patient and just wait in his line to talk to him. As I was waiting, I started looking at the buggy in front of me and listening to the ladies (a middle aged lady and her mom) talk about an upcoming birthday party they were planning. As I observed there cart, I saw a cute Little Mermaid, ride on toy, Mermaid plates, napkins, and a few other toys....and then that is when I saw it...
The purple and aqua material shimmered in the light of the tail that was flung over the side of the buggy. My heart was racing and my mind turned to jello as I wondered what I should do. I quickly motioned for Ben to come quick. When he arrived, I quitely pointed to the fish tail and told him, "that is our costume!" I guess I was thinking Ben would do something about it...instead, he turned to me and asked, "so what are you going to do, offer her more money?"
Offer her more money? Is that what I should do? I couldn't think, no words would even come out if I had tried. Instead I stood there and watched as the lady put the Mermaid costume on the counter to ring out. As she raised up the costume, Bobby (my boy) smirked and asked her, "what's your name?" That is when I found my voice and finally said, "I'm Barbara. I'm the one you have been talking to all day. That's the costume I'm here to buy." The lady looked shocked as she turned to me...and then, I went for it...
Yep, misty eyed, panic in my voice, I pleaded with the lady and told her my story. That is when kindness was shown to me by a total stranger (a woman who could have very well cussed me out and told me the costume was in her buggy and she found it first). Instead, she turned to me and said, "It sounds like you need this costume a whole lot more than me. I just thought it was cute. I wondered why it was shoved in the very back of the store. My daughter is turning 2 and she want even know the difference if she has the costume or not. I just thought it would make cute pictures." Then she handed me the costume and the tears flowed...then as Ben would say, I pulled my final card and lept to hug her (this stranger I had never even known). God definitely orchestrated this one because I could never have predicted the outcome!