The girls have been seized by sticker mania. They used to collect stickers in a vague kind of way, happy when they came their way, carefully adding them to their sticker books, but never actually spending their own money on them. Their sticker books are home-made, from those pocket files, with colourful card slotted into the pages; the plastic surface is perfect for holding stickers so that they can be peeled off again later.
Now swapping stickers has become a social activity. Every time they go to their friends’ houses the sticker books come too. New terminology has entered their vocabulary: scratchies are the 3D stickers with rough surfaces; smoothies, the slightly padded stickers with a vinyl surface; softies are stickers with a velvety surface. The value of the sticker depends on what other people are prepared to swap for it.
They exclaim over the deals that have been struck:
“I can’t believe she would swap all those stickers for just one scratchy”.
Conditions are made on the swaps:
“You can only have this one if you don’t swap it with anybody else.” or
"The mummy and the foal have to stay together or they'll be lonely"
I was late catching on to all this. It was only when they were bemoaning the fact that their friends have access to so many more new stickers than them, that I realised their swapping power was severely compromised. One set of friends have adults all over the place looking out for stickers for them. They get sent them from family in Germany; an older girlfriend at school in a nearby town gets interesting ones that she swaps with them; doting adults in the village pick them up for them when they see them. Our family had been falling behind! We hadn’t realised the seriousness of the situation...
When you’ve had no new stickers for a while it’s harder to interest anyone in swapping with you. And the girls hardly ever come shopping with me any more nowadays, so how were they to get new ones to add to their collection? One day visiting Shoprite I did glance through the stickers on display, but realised that I had no idea which ones were desirable and which ones naff. Obviously horse stickers were top of the list but what else? I didn’t get any. I told them to ask their friends where they got their stickers from. “The Crazy Store’ came back the answer.
Luckily there is a branch of the Crazy Store in the town near their brother’s school and we headed there after a piano lesson, armed with purses bulging from the proceeds of their market stall. They sat in the aisle of the shop next to the sticker display, examining them carefully, calculating costs and deciding on the appeal of each set. Most of the scratchies left had cars and planes on, just one set of flowers and one set of insects... they decided to buy three sets of stickers to share, including the flower scratchies. Then Middle daughter bought a further two sets just for herself, snapping up the insect scratchies and spending at least half her money altogether. Of course this threatened the balance, as now she would have far more scratchies than Youngest.
So the car was filled with tense discussion and negotiations, verging on sulks, on the way home, as they worked out who would get what, and whether Youngest could buy into some of the extras. Middle Daughter held firm to her right to have spent money on more stickers and refused to let Youngest buy in, but did concede her the prettiest half of the flower stickers.
The mother of their other friends has got no time for this sticker craze, can’t believe how much time they waste on it... but I’m coming to realise that they are probably getting a thorough grounding in all the skills they need to be successful business women: brokering deals, putting values on commodities according to their desirability and so on. And all for the price of a few packs of stickers!