I'm not one to make frivolous purchases. Yet when I saw the world globe, two days after a bountiful Christmas, I did not hesitate for a second. It was only $15.99. But at the moment the price was irrelevant; I would have sprung for it no matter what.
I was in a department store with my 18- year-old daughter, who had just moved her dorm room full of belongings into an apartment in Montreal. It was her first apartment, and she needed a few things (everything). We couldn't furnish an entire apartment during one short winter break, but I wanted to get her a few of the necessities before she returned to college.
Megan had just finished her first semester, and I was bursting with parent-al pride at all she had accomplished in the past year and a half. She had done a tremendous amount of growing and impressed the heck out of me.
She had spent 10 months in a foreign country, become fluent in a second language, been accepted to the college of her choice, and adapted gracefully to college life and academics. She had also succeeded in finding a perfectly acceptable apartment that was both closer to her classes and considerably cheaper than the dorm. She had negotiated with the landlord and signed her very first lease.
Yet when I saw her lay eyes on the world globe, I saw a little child.
We had passed by the brooms, toasters, assembly-required furniture and made a beeline for the center-aisle display of shiny planets. Through the cutouts in the cardboard boxes, we glimpsed a blue tin ocean and the multicolored coast of Africa. Suddenly I saw an eight-year-old with a look of pure, undisguised joy on her face.
When your children get big, you don't get to buy them toys anymore. This Christmas I had given my college-age daughters books, CDs, and clothing. I had given Megan a camera and, naturally, socks (wool, two pairs) to insulate her from the Canadian cold.
Meg reached in, placed a finger on the South Atlantic Ocean, and turned the earth a few inches to the west. She had spent her senior year of high school as an exchange student living with a family by the Orinoco River, more than 2,000 miles from her home in small-town New England. Yup, Venezuela was right there where she'd left it, just above the 24,902-mile long Equator. I peered north under the lid to try to see the British Isles, where I had spent three months when I was her age.
"I'll get this," I said, placing the bulky carton in our empty shopping cart. "An apartment needs a world globe."
Another open-book expression came over Meg's face, this one of surprise. "Really?" she asked, certain I jested.
"Of course. Do you want it?"
"Yeah, I'd love it," she said. "I've never had a globe."
I was rather surprised to realize that indeed my children had never owned a world globe, a toy I had prized in my own youth. Closing our eyes and spinning the globe like a top, my brother and I traveled to unexpected destinations. Our index fingers halted the speeding planet at a hundred different points. If we landed in the ocean, we gave it another twirl. The best place to land was Zanzibar. How could a place with two Z's not be magic? We became experts at gauging the spin's velocity and secretly raising an eyelid before skidding the globe to a stop.
The globe, dubbed "Millennium Globe" by its marketers, was "geographically accurate," had a bonus world map and "unique educational features."
I had a feeling that the tower of Millennium Globes was placed in the middle of the aisle, between Housewares and Toys, because there was a huge supply of unsold Earths and the holidays were over. Who buys globes? Parents. Few parents buy toys for their kids on Dec. 27. It was a desperate attempt on the retailer's part; put them right in the aisle and slash the price.
If anyone else bought a world globe that day, I doubt it was with as much alacrity as I made my purchase. We got a second shopping cart and purchased a bookcase, a shower caddy, and a desk lamp. We did not purchase a bed or a dresser. Some things one can do without for a while.
My older daughter drove her sister back to Montreal for the start of the term. Two days later, I phoned Megan's new number. "Hi, Meg! How's the world spinning?"
"It's spinning just fine," she said. "It's on the kitchen table." Her voice echoed a bit in the nearly empty apartment, but she sounded very happy. She had the world at her fingertips and she was ready to take it on.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society