Miss Nine and I stopped briefly at Safeway after school, primarily to pick up some soup for Couch Young Adult, who returned from a California vacation with a nasty cold. As we started to walk towards the store exit after checking out with our purchases, I noticed something unusual: people standing in line in front of a tall yellow vending machine. Aha, I thought, as I spotted the words "MEGA MILLIONS" near the top of the machine, that's right! I had read that tonight's Mega Millions lottery drawing had a jackpot that had swelled to 640 million dollars, and folks all over the country were going ape-feces buying tickets -- over a billion dollars' worth! My goodness gracious and such.

On a whim, I stopped just past the machine, stood for a few seconds, smiled to myself, and turned around.

"Mom, what are you doing?" Miss Nine inquired.

As I went to get some cash from the ATM, I told her the story about the big jackpot and she lit up like a little Christmas tree. I had to kindly temper her full expectations of winning with the statement, "We are not going to win."

"Well, why are you buying tickets then?"

I am so very unaccustomed to buying lottery tickets that I had to ask the woman in front of me how to work the vending machine. I fed 20 bucks into the tall yellow dispenser of dreams (and lightener of wallets), pushed the "Quick Pick" button twice, and watched the two sets of numbers on curled sheets of paper appear at the bottom of the beast.

"Just for fun, sweetie. Just for fun."

We walked back to the car, and got on the road home again.

"When will the people call to tell us we if we won?" The Christmas tone was still in her voice.

I laughed. "They won't call. We can check the numbers online after they do the official drawing in a few hours." Remembering that what is fun about playing the lottery once every ten years or so is the time you can spend musing on champagne dreams and caviar wishes, I asked Miss Nine cheerily, "Well, what would you want if we did win?"

She pondered the question soberly, sitting in the back, still in a booster seat.

"Charity. Charity first. And then a new laptop."

I sure she could hear the smile in my voice. "I'm really surprised and happy you mentioned charity first. That's very nice of you and it's so important."

"You're going to think the next thing I want is weird. A year's supply of corn. I love corn."

I giggled.

"Mom, what would you want?"

"The first thing I would do would be to make sure my family would always have enough money to be safe and comfortable after I am gone. Then I would think very, very carefully about how to distribute most of it to charity. Then I would like to travel a lot."

"Ooh, yes! Travel is good!"

"It would be fun to have some cool houses in different places, too."

"Oh, yeah! Like a cabin in Leavenworth, yeah?"

A bigger smile from me. " Leavenworth."

(UPDATE: I won $17!)