Though it was 15 years ago now, the “SM Armpit Incident,” as it’s been tagged in my family, never seems to escape discussion when my kids and husband are ragging on Mom. Such was the gathering at the Flo house this weekend. I took another look at the story’s chronicle I’d written in my weekly column in The Crier’s “Over the Picket Fence.” It can also be found on page 49 of my first book, “You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha.” I share it with you now:
December 8, 2004
I’ve Got Something Up My Sleeve. And I suspect you’ll never guess what. I assure you I was not expecting it either.
I spotted the jar from across the store and with my fists full of shopping bags, I rustled over with the same kind of raging passion that the jar’s contents had stirred in me decades ago.
Like any child longs for the love and passion of a pet, I had begged and cried for my own. I tacked pictures from the back pages of my Archie Gang comic books on the refrigerator with PLEASE written in my best cursive. And I dreamed about their sweet faces, crowned heads and wiggly tails smiling at me from the home I would lovingly create for them.
Yes, of course, we’re talking about sea monkeys.
And after all these years, here were sea monkeys for sale at the mall. And just like the ones that had finally arrived in my mailbox oh so many years ago, they looked nothing like the drawing in the comic book ads or on the box they were selling at the mall. In fact, it looked just like tap water if you dare to look closely — just little specks of nothing floating around in the water.
I was immediately filled with that same sense of self-doubt and Emperor’s New Clothes inferiority that I felt when looking at my children on scratchy black sonogram photos. What am I missing here? Is it just me that can’t see a family of monkey-shaped water cuties in this jar? How can they dare to think more could be fooled by this promise of pets to love and love back?
What could this mockery possibly cost, I wondered.
I turned the jar over to look at the price tag and te entire sticky sea and its fake monkeys poured down the sleeve of my coat sopping the arm of my sweater from one end to the other.
I gasped from the cold shock, put aside the embarrassing horror, and then pondered my options.
They put the price tag on the bottom of the jar and they don’t even have a seal for the top?
There was certainly no retrieving the sea monkey pets that were now wallowing around my armpit. What if the store clerk wanted me to pay for them? I would have been a fool to pay good money for the sea monkeys intact. I simply couldn’t bare the thought.
But, I am a mother, a mother who is always looking to guide my charges toward doing the right thing during these teachable moments. And to walk out without saying a word would certainly not set the right example.
Then, on the other hand, my kids were at school and would never have to know.
But, what if I walked out and my actions caused another kind of consequence, something in line with stepping on a crack in the sidewalk? I realized quickly that I couldn’t take that risk either.
There seemed like nary an answer to my sea monkey dilemma until I turned toward a flashing strobe pulsating light on an end cap display and my answer.
Of course. I’d simply buy something else at the store. I would buy enough of something that it would cover my guilt. And I would do it quickly enough that I’d be safely back home changing my sweater before anyone suspected my misdemeanor.
It worked. I don’t feel a bit guilty for setting those sea monkeys free. And I got all my shopping done, to boot.
I do hope the Chia pets will be a big hit with all my family and friends.