Revisiting the Dimestore

I said in my Monday blog that I knew dimestores like the one Lee Smith wrote about in her book. I remembered going in with my small change and trolling thorough the treasures to see if I wanted a bottle of bubbles, a set of jacks, or a Hershey bar. I smelled the tempting cashews roasting as they turned in the big container next to the checkout. Of course that leads to a story, (not a lie, like the ones she mentioned).

Al, in his first overseas assignment with the Army, sent a letter that he had found us an apartment in Paris. Murray and I had been waiting, and now he would have his first birthday the week we arrived. I made plans for our first plane trip. This entailed a trip to the dimestore for several items, but one of great importance.

I asked the owner, “Mrs. Page, do you carry a child harness?”

Mrs. Page had known my husband all of his life and had known me for at least half of mine. Feeling free to pass judgment and give advice, she said, “Yes, but I don’t believe in using them.”

I knew an explanation was necessary before she would tell me where to find one. “I’m going to be flying through New York and will be spending a good bit of layover time in that big airport. Murray will talk to anybody and will go off with them if they appear to be going somewhere that’s fun. I need to have him on a harness so he can run around but I don’t lose him.” I added, “I’m never going to use it again.”

Relief covered her face and Mrs. Page admitted it was probably a good idea to have the harness for the trip. She didn’t want me losing Murray either. She told me where to find it and sold it to me.

A few weeks later she would see his picture in the county paper, taken by a TWA photographer in that airport, and feel the pride that she had facilitated his not getting lost. I kept my promise and never used it again.

Dimestores have all but disappeared to be replaced by Dollar Stores where owners and clerks check your purchases without judgment or parenting advice. Sometimes I miss Mrs. Page.