I thought I knew where it was, so I breezed into the bedroom, swept the 18" of junk off the top of my cedar chest, and propped it open. I rummaged around inside, surprised to not see the plastic bag I had expected, containing the receipts from all the Christmas presents I bought. I frowned and dug deeper, piling beside me such things as:
- the ten thank-you cards I wrote after Emily's baby shower in 2004. They are in sealed envelopes, with the recipients' names written clearly on the front so I could later add the addresses and mail them.
- a plastic grocery bag full of paper hats, streamers, and napkins from three differently-themed children's birthday parties.
- a picture frame with the glass broken in two places. Still perfectly good, waiting for me to get around to buying replacement glass for the frame WHICH I BOUGHT FOR 75% OFF AT PIER ONE IN 1999.
- 10 years' worth of negatives in slippery plastic sleeves, which slithered all over the floor.
Actually, it's all true except that last line.
So, my children heard me crying (though I was trying to be quiet about it) and came in with concerned looks on their sweet faces, to see what was wrong. They crawled up beside me and put their smooth little arms around my neck and kissed me. Their voices were very anxious when they asked me what was wrong. I cried, "Daddy wants to take back the sweater I bought him for Christmas and I can't find the receipt. Oh I'm sorry I'm such a terrible mother, I can't do anything right."
Luckily they have experience with this type of situation and they were very kind. At first they were inclined to be indignant that Daddy didn't like the sweater, then they asked me what the receipt looked like, so they could search for it.
At that point, Em leaned over to her sister and whispered something in her ear. She sat back on her heels and said "Should we bring it? That would cheer her up." Charlotte nodded and Emily ran out of the room. Charlotte patted my hair and kissed my cheek, murmuring "you're a good mummy", just as Emily came back at a run from the living room........
* Yes, I bought a sweater. Believe me, it's better this way.