Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the Mouths of Babes

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Out of the Mouths of Babes

It is the will, and not the gift, that makes the giver.

Gotthold E. Lessing

Some things never change. Take, for instance, the capricious nature of desire. Will I never learn? I wondered once more, remembering.

I had been pushing a shopping cart with my almost-four-year-old granddaughter through Target when Tiffany squealed, “Looky! There are shoes just like Dorothy’s!”

Unmistakable excitement filled her voice. My eyes followed Tiffany’s emphatic, pointing finger. There they were, a whole rack of them: ruby slippers sparkling as if sprinkled with scarlet fairy dust. Magical footwear transported straight from the silver-screen Land of Oz. There were gold and silver ones, too, but it was the ruby ones that mesmerized my granddaughter. Naked desire flared in Tiffany’s eyes. When we stopped before the shoe rack, Tiffany reached with longing for a ruby slipper. She turned it over and over with reverence and wonderment.

I could so easily visualize my darling Tiffany dancing a regal waltz in them, dipping and twirling off into that elusive world of dress-up and fantasy that she so often inhabited. Tiffany was a luminous little girl who loved everything swishy and swirly. Glittery and glamorous. Tiaras, high heels, angel wings, taffeta and tulle skirts, feather boas, and sparkling jewelry of every description.

I had already bought Tiffany’s birthday gift only days before. Dedicated to nurturing my granddaughter’s appreciation for the more important things of life, I aimed always—well, almost always—not to overdo the materialistic. But in this case, I pondered, how often does one get such an easy opportunity to fulfill a childhood desire?

Believe it or not, for three days I wrestled with this dilemma. Finally, I returned to the store for the ruby slippers that would surely fulfill Tiffany’s heart’s desire.

Standing at the cash register waiting for my change, I was so delighted that it took an enormous act of will to restrain myself from breaking into a spontaneous tap dance. I couldn’t stop smiling. Strolling out of the store, clutching my precious package as if it contained the crown jewels, I felt absolutely triumphant. Surely there were springs in my shoes. This was one time an unquestioning certainty guaranteed I had found the perfect gift.

On Tiffany’s birthday, I could hardly wait for my granddaughter to open the box containing the slippers. When at last she tore away the bright wrapping paper, the light flooding Tiffany’s face said it all. In an eager instant she slipped her little feet into the sparkling shoes. It was as if they had a life of their own. Suddenly Tiffany minced. She swayed. She strutted. She sashayed. On and on she danced, oblivious to everyone. From all appearances, she couldn’t help herself. She was lost in their spell.

All afternoon Tiffany wore the magic shoes. She couldn’t tear her eyes from them as she played. As the day waned, it was as if she had drained every last bit of magic from them. Every last bit of wonder and joy.

At last dusk descended. Finally wearied by all the excitement, Tiffany crawled into my lap, as she so often did, snuggling close and giving me the best of little granddaughter bear hugs.

“You really enjoy those red slippers, don’t you, honey?”

Tiffany nodded slowly, an expression of sudden gravity sobering her dear little face. Then she paused to ponder for a bit before offering her carefully considered answer.

“Actually, it was the gold ones that I really wanted.”

Jane Elsdon

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