We live behind a strip mall.  A strip mall that includes a casino, liquor store and dollar store in addition to two hair places, a state department of health office and a super-fantastic drug store.

It’s as classy as it sounds and I normally don’t like to bring it up.

BUT . . .

It has it’s perks.  It’s nice to ride bikes with the kiddos to get candy at the drug store.  It’s awesome to have a place to fill prescriptions, grab diapers/batteries/deodorant/a birthday gift or any other last minute need right around the corner.  There’s a mini post-office inside for heaven’s sake.  I love Boyd’s drug with everything I have.  It’s nice to have a place to grab booze for impromptu get-togethers.  And, I hate to admit this, but the dollar store is so very handy for averting dinner crises.  Because, shock of shocks, I DON”T always have my act together and there are days when I’m making enchiladas and there isn’t any cheese left in the house – for example – and I know that the Dollar Giant will have crazy flavors and amounts for crazy prices.

A 10 oz. block of Colby with “2/$5.00” printed on the neon orange price tag.  It’s not our normal Sharp Cheddar, but it makes a great pinch hitter.

Not that that would ever happen.

We had a similar (if not identical) problem occur this evening and as everyone but Gemma was purposefully employed (she was busy climbing up on the table . . . ), I grabbed her for the quick trip.

Oh, the excitement!

“Go!” “Seat!” Giggle!  “ME!”

She requested a cart upon entering the store and was a willing helper.  She held and licked (don’t get me started on the gross factor here) the cheese and kept saying, “Cheese!” on repeat.  When we got to the check-out, she handed the cheese to the cashier and smiled sweetly.  Miraculously, she stayed seated and didn’t let loose a scream when the cheese was transferred to the bag.

“She is soooo sweet!” the young cashier gushed. “Can she have a balloon?”

It was such a lovely and unexpected offer that I said “Sure!” which Gemma promptly and adorably mimicked.

The cashier choose a pink and white agate balloon that matched Gemma’s outfit. “I don’t mind doing this for the good ones.  The bratty ones though . . . ” Gemma’s eyes widened as the balloon swelled with helium. “Oh!” Gemma gasped.  I asked her what it was and she was enthusiastic in her response, “BOON!”  The cashier tied it off, curled the ribbon and attached the end to a plastic star.  She handed it to an unbelieving and grateful Gemma who said “Taint to!” without prompting.  The girl was as excited as Gemma, “Oh my goodness!” she gushed,  “She definitely deserves one!”

Gemma laughed and enthused and described her prize all the way home.  She was proud showing it to her siblings and carried it around until supper was finished.

Tonight I gave thanks for the proximity of that strip mall, kind people and the simple things like stripey balloons that can turn an ordinary day into magic.