Monday, October 26, 2009

Guilt-Chip Cookies

There's a little girl in our neighborhood who loves Piper. This is great, except this girl is six years old and seems to think of Piper as an overgrown baby doll. She tries to pick her up and haul her around, and while Piper is remarkably tolerant of her attentions, it makes me uneasy to have her staggering around carrying my kid, dangerously close to dropping her on the massive anthills and upthrust tree roots that populate the dirt around here.

This little girl also likes to hang out and play with Piper...which is again, great, except that this means she takes Piper's toys right out of her hands and breaks them and bosses Piper around. She pesters us to bring more and more toys out into the yard. She climbs, sits, and swings on Piper's built-for-kids-under-3-years-old-or-less-than-45-lbs swing set. I wince and try to gently tell her that it's built for little kids, as the plastic swing sags and its support beams start to buckle. The little girl sometimes complies, but a lot of the time, she tells me "No, it's okay, see?" and swings harder, her butt in the swing hovering three inches off the ground. The whole swing set rocks and tips and thumps with every movement.

She is constantly asking for food, candy, or any other consumables she thinks I may have around. I gave out juice boxes and banana bread one day for helping us in the yard when she, her sister, and some other neighborhood kids helped us bury Chick and ever since then she asks for more every time she comes over. It's not a casual request, either; she peers around the back door and scans the kitchen counters for signs of recent baking. If I tell her no, I don't have any today, she asks "Well, do you have something else?" She asks for a drink and I give her water. She looks disdainfully at the plastic cup and says "Don't you have any juice?" If I tell her not today, she will try to look into the refrigerator to prove me wrong.

This little girl came over one day last week selling cookies. Cookie dough, to be more specific, one of those godawful fundraiser things that have kids hawking crap nobody needs to make pennies per item for their school. I wanted to help her out; I really did. But she came to our door first asking if Piper could come out and play, and then absently asked us if we wanted to buy some cookies. We said we'd take a look and she invited herself inside. Piper was finishing up a Popsicle, and the little neighborhood girl asked for one (and when she'd finished it, another). We gave her a Popsicle and while we looked over her sales materials, she started playing with Piper.

She had handed us a three-page brochure and order form for frozen cookie dough which cost $14 or $16 per box. That is a lot of cash for us to be dropping on cookies sold by six-year-olds, and I started to get a sinking feeling. Closer inspection revealed that the envelope into which we were supposed to place our form of payment had no information on it. There were merely blank lines where her school, classroom, and teacher's name should've been written. In fact, all the lines on everything were blank, except for the first line of the order form where someone had half-filled in an order and then crossed it out. The only other sheet she had handed us was a glossy one-page flyer showing all the really! great! prizes! a kid could get if they sold enough cookie dough to feed Western Europe for a year.

We asked her what school she went to, and she told us the name, which was unsurprisingly the school right up the road. When quizzed about her teacher's name, she mumbled something and went back to playing. We asked her when we'd get the cookie dough - there was absolutely nothing on any of the materials about when this "gourmet" cookie dough would arrive - and she said we had to pick it up. We asked her when and where and she said "I think at the school sometime...I don't really know." She couldn't tell us anything else about the cookie sale.

I had been mentally berating the person who had started an order and then crossed out their name, but suddenly I understood their position very well. I did not particularly want to turn this girl loose with a check or cash which may or may not make it to the teacher, for some cookies which may or may not ever arrive, which we might have to possibly go pick up "sometime" from some part of her school.

Eventually we told her to have her teacher fill out the envelope with the correct info or give her an information sheet so we'd know what to do, then bring it to us and we would order cookies. By now I had spent 45 minutes agonizing over this terrible moral dilemma and feeling like an ass for not buying any cookies. The little girl, who didn't seem to care if we bought 50 cases of cookies or none at all, had spent the time nosing around our house, playing with Piper, and rifling through our kitchen drawers looking for candy.

She got a handful of starlight mints, and I ended the day feeling as though I needed to go to confession for not buying some overpriced cookie dough.

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