Let’s Make a Deal!


One of my favorite game shows as a kid was “Let’s Make a Deal.”  I loved the excitement of watching someone try to decide whether to keep the prize they’d already won, say a new stereo, or trade it for what lay behind curtain #2. Would Carol Merrill be standing by a Chevy Malibu—or a cage of chickens (the “zonk”)?   But even more than that, I loved when Monty Hall would roam around the audience during credits and offer people cash for random objects. The women always carried these giant purses, crammed full of disparate crap they hoped would provide valuable. “I’ll give you $100 if you have a green toothbrush in your purse…” or “If you have a dollar bill from the Denver mint, I’ll trade it for this $50 dollar bill!”

While Haley Joel Osmont may see dead people, I see metaphors.  And much of my life I’ve felt like an unwitting contestant on “Let’s Make a Deal” when faced with tough choices—schools, jobs, spouse, housing. There’s always the risk of getting zonked? Over time just thinking aobut the phrase “What’s behind curtain #2?” is enough to give me anxiety. All the life altering decisions, roads not taken, are too real to be entertaining.

But life also imitates the other part of “Let’s Make a Deal.”  We are frequently asked to cough up random skills and talents that we may or may not possess.  Half of my church callings fall into this category where I feel like I’m frantically searching through my purse of experience trying to find an item that will allow me to succeed, looking around at others and just knowing their bags are filled with much worthier stuff than mine.  Asking me to do anything musical is akin to Monty Hall asking an audience member if they have a live alligator in their bag.  Fat chance. And yet, there are times when you can pull a rabbit out of your hat. I did last week.

My good friend Leilani left town for 10 days to care for her sick parents. On day 6 she calls and is near tears. Her 10 year-old daughter Emily has broken her ankle, was promised a cute pink cast, but at the last minute ortho decides on a cement colored boot.  Cheery Emily, a sunshine child if there ever was one, is heartbroken. She can take the pain, the inconvenience, giving up swimming, but the loss of the promised cast is too much. (Note: kids are obsessed with casts. My daughter broke her ankle and once the cast was on never complained again. Is there some healing property in having friends write on your limbs with Sharpie?) Emily’s dad is equally on the brink and does not have the necessary items to fix this particular mess.  As Leilani and I talk, I know exactly what to do. It’s as if Monty Hall has approached me and said, “I’ll give you this wad of cash if you can produce a pearl necklace, a redheaded Polly Pocket, and a potato peeler.”  All of which are currently in my purse.  For real.

I first ask myself, “What would Leilani do?” because really what Emily needs is her mama.  If I’m ever sad, Leilani shows up with food. Food. I can do that.  I call Denise, another Mama who loves Leilani, and we take injured Emily out to lunch and the restorative power of a McFlurry. Denise brings with her a gift bag of Emily’s favorite chocolates and some useful advice on how to navigate stairs with crutches.  After lunch I bring Emily back to my house and break out the craft bucket and we bedazzle the hell out of her ugly boot. We turn that grey thing into a sparkling swan with her name spelled across the toe in pink glitter stickers.  “This is so much prettier than a cast!” she exclaims when we finish.  When my girls get home from school we bring more fun kids over, decorate sugar cookies I just happened to have made—but not frosted—the night before.  I rummage through the garage and find 2 pairs of old crutches and organize Tiny Tim races.  When Emily goes home, her smile is as sparkly as her boot.

Leilani calls me later to thank me, and I say it was my pleasure. Because it was.  Honestly, most of the time when stuff is required of me I feel like I’m scrambling through my purse-o-talents and coming up empty.  Service is so hit and miss.  But every once in a while I have the right tools for the challenge and it feels so satisfying, even if those skills are simply feeding a kid fast food and having stick-on-jewels & spare crutches at the ready. On that day, the things in my purse were not just sufficient, but overflowing.

Do you have any “Let’s make a deal” stories? Times where seemingly random things were required of you that you just happen to have?


  1. Heather,
    You’ve done it again! I’m so glad you blog here. I love your writing and your stories.
    I feel like this all the time. I’m never sure if I have what it takes, but I’m always thinking about who does and how I can connect different people together. That’s probably also a product of years in the non-profit world.

    Your post really touched me. Thanks.

  2. This is so apropos of my life right now! I wish I had a happy let’s make a deal, but instead I got the zonk. Anyone who bought a home in May 2005 got the zonk, and now I’m stuck with a condo I’m desperate to get out of!

    Oh, if only we’d just kept renting…

  3. When I read that the pink cast hadn’t happened, I thought, “Oh, adding flare to a cast is SO up Heather’s ally!”

    I woke up one morning and got ready to make two loaves of bread, only needing one. Then, I had a friend call crying, needing a babysitter. I was able to watch her kids and send them home with a loaf of bread (no sugar cookies and bedazzled cast), but it felt a bit serendipitous to be able to do that service so easily.

  4. Aw, Heather, I didn’t know that was you! Emily is in my Lulu’s class at school, and the entire 5th grade wants broken ankles now. Well done, friend!

  5. What a great story, Heather. I love this line, “While Haley Joel Osmont may see dead people, I see metaphors.” I wish I could see more metaphors in my life. And I also wish I had more Let’s Make a Deal stories.

    The only one that comes to mind is that I just happened to be at a car wash one day when an old lady’s car broke down. She was in tears. I offered her a ride home, and she accepted – probably because I looked so non-threatening with my 2 year old in my back seat, and because she liked by COEXIST bumper sticker. Apparently she was involved in interfaith activities back in her day.

  6. “Apparently she was involved in interfaith activities back in her day.”

    You mean after you get old you can’t be involved or useful any more? Or that your input somehow doesn’t count?

  7. Great post, Heather!

    This is kind of cheating, but I worked at a reference desk in a public library for several years. Lots of times, random bits of information stuck in my head were helpful in answering patrons’ questions. For instance, in Dave Barry’s book “Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States” he repeats the name “Hawley Smoot Tariff” over and over again because he thinks it sounds so silly. So because I love Dave Barry and had read the book, the name was stuck in my head. Then one day, a patron called the library and asked about the Hawley Smoot Act of 1930; he wanted to know what it dealt with. I told him that I was pretty sure it dealt with tariffs. He was shocked that I knew that without looking it up. Naturally, I didn’t tell him that Dave Barry was my source. 🙂

  8. OldLadyNow, I suspect that after reading the post, Caroline was channeling Haley Joel Osmont’s character and she thought the woman she was giving a ride to was *actually dead* and therefore no longer involved in interfaith activities. 🙂

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