As a lover of K-Mart and Wal-Mart who has never been to Target–or Tar-shay–I was delighted that National Review’s Meghan Gurdon has done it for me (not that that means I won’t go myself once I figure out how non-drivers get there).
Meghan, who writes hilariously and wisely about the thrills and travails of bringing up young children, is NR’s answer to Jean Kerr, whose “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” became a hit movie starring Doris Day, not as a virgin but as a young mother coping with a batch of energetic children.
Meghan spends real time (not just dollops of quality time) with her brood, and she’s always quite funny about the experiences. Including her first venture to Tar-gay:
“‘Man,’ the cashier chuckles, shaking her head as she runs her hand-held laser across the bar codes of innumerable absurdly priced, brightly colored goodies. ‘I ain’t never heard of nobody who ain’t been to Target.’
“‘Target,’ I correct her, like an idiot, using the Franco-phony pronunciation. She chuckles again.
“Just then Paris and Molly come rushing back from a foray on the sales floor. ‘Mummy, racing cars!’ one yelps, and the other holds up a rainbow-colored notebook with matching pens, and gasps, ‘Please may I get these?’
“For a moment, I seem to catch a whiff of smelling salts and abruptly return to being the mother I have always been, whose answer to shop floor entreaties is generally, “No.” There is a fugitive return of the disquiet I felt earlier in the morning when I realized that almost every item on every shelf was Made in China. But two hopeful faces are shining up at me. The moment passes, and I hear myself say, ‘What the heck! How much are they?’
“‘$2.99!’ Paris says.
“‘$4.99!’ Molly says.
“‘Well, I suppose you can always use a notebook –‘
“The children rejoice, the cashier completes our transaction, and with a flourish I sign the little plastic window on the credit-card machine. Those smelling salts pass invisibly beneath my nose as I catch sight of the total — $300! — but I shake them away. I just bought children’s sneakers for $10.99, packets of ponytail elastics for $1.99 and racing cars for a mere $2.99. If you consider what I might have paid for these items elsewhere, why — why, I haven’t so much as spent $300 as saved $300! I imagine saying this to my husband.”
What Meghan’s husband actually said is, “I see,” and Meghan comes face to face with a moral dilemma: much of the bounty of Target comes from China, a communist tyranny, one of the world’s vicious governments where bishops are thrown in prison merely for being believers. Having read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” she is aware of the power of purchasing products.
“In Victorian times, gin was known as Mothers’ Ruin. By the Seventies, uppers and downers were making mischief among mothers. Today, following in a long tradition of dangerous intoxicants consumed by housewives, we have cheap Chinese stuff.”
I won’t tell you Meghan’s solution to the dilemma–the piece is witty, the conclusion is, I think correct, and I don’t want to spoil your reading pleasure.