I've witnessed my mother express pure joy on a handful of occasions. She wells up with emotion that presents itself in a myriad of ways, impossible for others not to notice. Like, the tears that rushed vigorously down her cheeks when she welcomed her first grandchild to the world. And the ear to ear grin that reshaped her visage at the conclusion of my high school graduation speech. Or the piercing sparkle that radiates from her eyes when she and her friends recall Beatlemania. Never, though, have I seen my mother as visibly ecstatic as she was just recently when, a mere three blocks from her house, Omaha's first Costco officially opened for business.
Knowing very little about the franchise, I was especially puzzled by my mother's outpouring of excitement. In the grand scheme of life, the opening of a bulk item store seemed like a less than momentous event. My parents, incidentally, are veteran empty-nesters that strictly monitor their calorie and fiber intake. I figured their need for a nine-pound bag of Cheese Doodles to be virtually non-existent. Besides, Omaha already boasted a Sam's Club which, to the untrained eye, appears to be an exact duplicate of its competition. And, from what I gathered, both stores had the audacity to charge civilians a membership fee just to shop there.
Expectedly, though, Costco soon became more than a name repeatedly uttered in my parents' household. Just weeks after opening, it secured its place as the official sponsor of my mother's kitchen. I'd stop by for dinner, and be greeted with a hearty smile and an extra large pizza. "See, it's from Costco," my mother would happily announce, pointing to the bright red logo on the box. "And, here. Try this delicious mango salsa. I got it on special. At Costco!"
Sure, I enjoyed the pizza. But, I found its origin to be rather disconcerting. Why buy pizza from a bulk warehouse instead of an authentic, locally-owned pizzeria voted Best of Omaha for 12 consecutive years? In fact, why buy anything from a bulk warehouse unless you're running a soup kitchen or preparing for a nuclear attack? My mother could sense my confusion and, in a charitable effort to explain Costco's appeal, simply handed me her membership card, and nodded toward the great outdoors. "Just go," her expression seemed to command. "Go my son, and you will see."
And so I went.
The parking lot was bustling, alive with softhearted soccer moms, tactically placing boxes of bulk into the trunks of SUVs. Greeted and granted entry by a gentle, wispy-haired old lady, I explored Costco's aisles in search of answers. I suppose the allure was understandable -- a welcome atmosphere, friendly service, high-quality goods at premium prices. "Certainly not a glorified Walmart like Sam's Club," I'm sure I heard one shopper murmur. And, as far as I knew, the only place that anybody could leave, having just purchased a four-gallon jar of mayonnaise, a tank of gas, and a genuine leather Barka lounger. Still, I couldn't help but find the whole idea a bit unnecessary.
My outlook soon changed, however, when I discovered a seeming endless string of Costco employees, graciously handing out free samples. I shuffled eagerly from table to table, nibbling on bites of Costco-brand barbecue beef and pork ribs, grilled chicken and baked salmon, cocktail shrimp and snack crackers. Then, not before sampling dessert, I cheerfully toddled past the displays of giant merchandise and out the exit. My mother must have known that Costco would win me over. Because, it's the little things that I appreciate.