The goal of the half hour was to find two good doggy toys at T.J. Maxx. Our friends, Sean and Hannah, were coming for the weekend with their two Boston Terriers and I wanted them to feel comfortable and happy in our home.
Except all at once and all of a sudden, there was a fall décor display at the entrance of the store. I was about to walk by it, I planned to walk by it, and then a shiny, silver pumpkin caught my eye.
In the world of fall home décor, this specimen was well bred: eye-catching, reasonably sized and it contained fall-smelling potpourri, which made it not only pretty but functional (in fact, necessary?).
I picked it up and it felt like fate. I turned it over and it was the very fair price of $9.99. This, I argued, would lend an element of fall festivity to our home. It would smell terrific. I could put it on my dining room table and the kids would see it when they came to trick or treat. This would make them feel like they were visiting a very nice, kind, responsible family. It would also make Sean and Hannah feel more welcome.
I put it in my cart.
I was about to walk away from the fall décor display when I had this thought: What was I going to do with just one pumpkin? Put it on the dining room table and have it sit there lonely and adrift from its fall décor compatriots? And wouldn’t it look kind of, I don’t know, dumb sitting there by itself, prompting my guests and trick or treaters to think: “That’s it? That’s all you’re giving us for fall? Shabby effort, Kaprowy. I don’t care if it does smell good. Not good enough.”
So that’s when I started considering other pumpkins. In point of fact, I filled my cart with three others in addition to the original one.
But then I started thinking: Wait. What was the decorating rule? Rule of Threes, right? Or if not threes, at least an odd number. So I’d either need three pumpkins or five. Five seemed weightier if I was going to pitch how perfectly pumpkiny our house was.
I added another specimen.
But then wait: They couldn’t all look the same. Five pumpkins lined up in a row was not going to inspire the homey, cottagey look I was (very suddenly) going for. What I needed was a clever mixture of pumpkins. So I started picking and choosing and despairing because I lack decorating skill. Did I need a wooden pumpkin? Did I need a gold pumpkin? Did I need a glass pumpkin? Did I need a squat pumpkin and a Minion-shaped pumpkin?
I made myself stop and have a good think.
What could pull all of these pumpkins together? A fall table runner, of course. So, with my cart full of gourds, I raced to the back of the store where I knew they carried table runners because they are right next to the dog toys. There I found two more tables containing fall décor displays. More pumpkin specimens, yes. But so much more. A turkey serving platter. Fall-themed napkins. A pumpkin-shaped napkin holder. And then? Itty, bitty, perfectly adorable pumpkin-shaped place card holders. A pack of six in orange. A pack of six in white. $12.99 a pack.
You know when you’ve been waiting on your French fries to cool down in the take-out bag and you get to a stoplight and you realize they are now the perfect temperature so you take six of them and you stuff them in your mouth because the light is about to turn and you love French fries, oh god, but you love French fries?
That’s how I put those place card holders in my cart. Quickly, ravenously, guiltily.
But then: I realized this was getting expensive. Why in the world would a sane person spend what looked like $60 on a fall décor display?
I made an attempt to edit. I returned pumpkins to the shelf and I put them back in my cart. I added fall-themed napkins because they were $3.99 and they should have been $6. I added the pumpkin-shaped napkin holder because I wanted it. I told myself I was being responsible because I wasn’t getting sucked into the fall-scented Yankee candles. And then all at once and all of a sudden, I threw in the turkey platter for no reason at all.
When I got home, I was exhausted.
“What do we have here?” my teenage stepdaughter Gabrielle asked me. She was sitting at the dining room table working on a chemistry lab report.
“I’m WEAK!” I declared.
She started rummaging through the bags.
“You certainly have had a time, haven’t you?”
She pulled out the place card holders.
“They’re for Canadian Thanksgiving next year. They’re functional.”
She pulled out the turkey platter. It was gold. It was huge and maybe hideous.
“You can’t be serious.”
“I’m both serious and ridiculous,” I admitted, putting my face in my hands.
“But did you get the dog toys?”
“No. I forgot.”
“You got T.J. Maxxed, stepmother.”
“Yes, sweet girl. I got T.J. Maxxed.