Besides being a self-published author and trying to be a traditionally published one, I’m also an essay writer. I’ve been more successful in that department, mostly writing about parenting. If ever you’re curious, here is my portfolio:
I’ve been in that game for three years now, and I’ve become pretty good at guessing which essay will get published and which one is a long shot, and I rarely get surprised anymore. You develop a sixth sense about these things because you become so in tune with your own writing and what people will connect with more.
But of all the essays I’ve sent in for submission, there is one that has been consistently rejected for the past three years, and I cannot for the life of me understand why. It’s a funny anecdote that happened to us throughout one summer. I’ve probably sent in this essay well over twenty places, and they’ve all rejected it.
My best guess is that maybe the essay is too specific, and editors feel no one will relate to it. But who doesn’t enjoy a somewhat funny story where the people misjudged a situation?
Anyway, without further ado, I present to you The Story Nobody Wanted, or how I like to call it, The Toy Store.
The Toy Store
Back when we were the parents of just one child, there was this toy store we liked to take our then seven-year-old daughter to. It was in a big shopping mall, but the store had a local, small-town feel. It was neatly kept, and the toys were beautifully arranged. And it had one of those wonderful display windows through which children stared endlessly and marvel at all the pretty things.
So, whenever we visited the store, my husband and I could not help but buy something for our daughter. The store was so appealing it almost beckoned us to grab something. And we always did. It was never anything too expensive or too extravagant or too big, just a little something. We liked to think we were teaching our daughter good values. Certainly, a small toy every now and then could not spoil her. Of course, we had our doubts because what started as an exception soon became a habit, and she had come to expect something every time. But whatever doubt clouded our minds quickly vanished when we saw our daughter’s face as she took home a little piece of that heavenly place.
One summer day, the toy store displayed a beautiful, red, shiny toy car in its window. The type where children can sit and ride in. And like dozens of people there, we stopped and admired it. And like all the children there, my daughter asked for it. She knew better than to ask for something that size on a regular day, so she smartly specified that she would like it for Christmas or her birthday. We exchanged glances with my husband, and we explained to her that the toy was too big and too expensive. Our child has never been difficult, and she was content to take home something more reasonable.
I could only imagine what my parents would say if we spent hundreds of hard-earned dollars on a toy. How my big brother would joke and say our daughter had a better car than her parents. I smiled to myself thinking of this, and we walked away, leaving the nice toy car where it should be, in the toy store.
A few weeks later, the car was still there, but right next to it, there was now a sign with one word on it: Reserved. I scoffed at the sight of this. Why would anybody spend this much money on a toy that would soon be forgotten in a garage somewhere? And once again, in my head, I pictured my parents’ frown of disapproval. I heard my brother’s mocking voice if ever we were the ones offering such an extravagant gift to our kid.
The car stayed up with that sign almost all summer, and each time we passed by it, we wondered, who was the mysterious buyer, and why in the world had that person not picked up the car yet? Was it a surprise and the store was keeping it till then? Or perhaps, the buyer was paying by installments because he couldn’t afford to buy it all in one shot. And I shook my head at this thought. I purchased my appliances by installments, certainly not a toy. If my brother were here, he would be mercilessly ridiculing the situation, I thought.
Later that summer, my brother invited us to his house one afternoon. I could tell on the phone he was excited about something. When we arrived at his home, that something was smack in the middle of his living room, staring back at us. We immediately recognized it, and we gaped in disbelief at it. It was the car from the toy store.