this past weekend, greg was working, which basically, for me, meant that last week was just an incredibly long week. but enough of my self pity party. it also meant that the grocery shopping for the week didn’t get done, which meant i used up the last of the milk on the kids breakfast cereal and they (ruth) were still complaining that it was “too dry” and i had to pack leftovers for our park lunch because there was nothing else in the fridge except some condiments and a butt ton of cider from our recent apple orchard visit. i might be tempted to write a blog post about the hard cider we plan to make and then enjoy bit by bit over many fall evenings after the kids are in bed. we’re all fancy like that (thank god they accepted credit cards. buy now pay later. that’s my motto).
anywho, what this also translated into was that we still needed groceries to make it trough the rest of the week. hence: my favorite of all activities: family field trip to kroger night (i was about to walk out the door with just ruth and i but at the last second greg panicked at the thought of being left alone with joel and decided to come along). so it was the whole gang.
it usually starts out pretty good. if we can manage to find a “car cart” (one of those bright plastic cars affixed to the front of a shopping cart. pure genius), the kids will usually be happy and occupied for at least the first half of the trip. i can sometimes even make it all the way to the diary aisle before things begin to go south. after that, though, it’s no mans land. this shit is crazy. you don’t know what’s gonna happen after that.
that’s why i’ve become so good at speed-shopping. by the time i get to the store, i pretty much have my list memorized. it’s my goal to not stop moving once i’m in the doors (stop moving=opportunities for kids to evacuate). i can tie a produce bag shut while driving with my elbows. i do a sort of run-by grab method while making almost continuous engine noises with my mouth, to further entertain the kids. needless to say, we are not the favorites of the employees trying to stock the shelves. neither are we appreciated by the other patrons, often cutting people off in an attempt to get the shopping done as fast as possible and then get the fudge out of dodge. pardon my giant plastic car. coming through.
greg usually just serves to slow me down, so i sent him on a mission to acquire the meat for the week (he considers himself the family meat aficionado).
yesterday was one of those days when ruth is just a little too antsy to sit for that long and she jumped out pretty quick, wanting to investigate the merchandise for herself. brother, being left in the lurch, started to writhe almost immediately, enraged to be left behind and be possibly missing out on something that sissy is getting to do. i resisted getting him out as long as possible, ignoring his angry cries (to the utter shock of on-lookers, i’m sure). maybe he would forget he wanted to get out and regain interest in his car if i just kept moving? or maybe he would tire out and give up the ghost, placidly sucking his thumb for the rest of the trip? nope.
i plopped him down on his unstable feet in the frozen foods aisle, and looked at him as uncertainly as if he were a ticking time bomb, which he was. once he was free of the cart, i had no control, no way to steer him away from bright displays or out of the path of oncoming cart traffic. a tantrum was probably imminent just as soon as he found something and didn’t want to leave it. i started looking around for greg. i think i even whimpered his name.
then a stroke of brilliance came to me! “ruth,” i said urgently, “hold his hand!” i knew that if he was agreeable to it (which he isn’t always) that ruth could lead him around this way and keep him somewhat contained and going in the right direction. and, although only four, ruth is pretty good at avoiding the other shopping carts. i knew she could keep him mildly safe, and i felt ok about that as we rounded the corner into the dish soap aisle.
finally, greg appeared, just as ruth and joel happened upon the dreaded “toy section”. damn it, i thought, why do they have to put that there?! and right at their level, those kroger bastards. joel was grabbing at things frantically, he couldn’t take toys off the shelf fast enough, meanwhile ruth was holding a conversation with herself about which toy she really wanted in a slightly more controlled manner. it was nearly impossible to get them to leave, greg ended up having to grab joel and carry him away thrashing and crying while still holding a small egg full of plastic dinosaurs that we couldn’t pry out of his hand, and we had to ask ruth about five times and begin to walk away before she was able to come back to her senses from “fantasy land” and continue to the dairy aisle. the last aisle. whew.
by this time, there was no way joel was going back in the cart, he wouldn’t even be carried, but started careening wildly around, looking for colorful things to grab. ruth, too, was riled up and took our toilet paper and began to ride it down the length of the aisle like a sled. i proceeded with the now empty car cart, grabbing our stuff as quickly as i could without running anyone else over.
we finally made it to the check out line, i left greg and ruth to load the food on the conveyor belt and took joel for a walk to try to distract him while the purchase was being made. he led me by the hand over to the halloween stuff and then down the baby aisle, where he looked uncertainly about for a minute before he honed in on a jar of beech nut peas and apples and grabbed it. i wouldn’t care, except the lady who stocks the baby aisle was looking at me sideways, silently cursing me and my offspring, and the jar was glass. i tried to coax him to look at something else while i took it away. i tried to get him to put it back on his own. nothing worked. he wouldn’t drop that damn jar. so i just picked him up and carried him to the checkout where greg and ruth were finishing up. “do you want that too?” asked the cashier, seeing the jar in joel’s hand. “no,” i said and finally just pried it out of his grasp.
well, you may think you have heard a baby scream before. but i don’t think i can quite do it justice just how hard joel started screaming. how he threw himself out of my arms. how he began to writhe on the dirty, dirty kroger floor, trying to slam his head into the candy display.
people were looking. i was soothing. trying to pick him up. all in vain. we weren’t gonna make it out alive. unless….
i handed him back the jar. and he eased up. calmed down. stopped crying. was at peace.
“we’ll take this too,” i said to the cashier.
“that’ll be a buck oh eight,” he replied, bless his heart, seemingly unfazed by what had just transpired in his checkout line. “i once asked my dad if i ever cried as a baby and he said, ‘i wouldn’t have allowed it’. thanks, dad,” he said good-naturedly, possibly trying to smooth out the situation.
i managed a weak smile.