The cupboard was bare. Somehow, we ran out of food… um… a while ago. Not completely, of course. But my usually well-stocked kitchen was down to the bare bones and I just hadn’t gotten it together to get to the store. One by one, we ran out of staples. No milk. No bread. No american cheese slices. No yogurt.
No (*gasp!*) pop-tarts.
The situation was becoming dire.
And I tried–lo, how I tried–to just convince the children to join me in my misery and adopt the all water-and-tums diet which I have been so enjoying. “Look!” I would exhort them. “This is a delicious ice cube, which was made by modern magic right here in our freezer! It is both tasty AND refreshing! And really quite filling!”
But I am afraid I have already spoiled the children beyond all reason, for they would only whine in response. We need REAL FOOD, Mama, they insisted. Endless wailing about how they wanted green beans and chicken and blueberries, or something. I don’t know. Brats.
I was relating this tale to a friend on the phone, who offered to meet us at the store. She would bring her kids, and we could all shop together and make it an event. Or, you know, we could put all the kids into the supervised play place, and do our shopping in peace.
So we piled into the car and headed to the supermarket. There was much rejoicing from the rear seat, as the grocery store play place is about as exciting as it gets for my kids. To my mind, it’s pretty much just like our family room at home: A place to color, a television cranking out some sort of Disney background, and a pile of toys. But to them, it’s nirvana for some reason. Maybe it’s the festive and colorful carpet. Maybe it’s because I’m not there. I have no idea.
We arrived at the store before our friends. I encouraged the children to just casually loiter by the main door with me, explaining that if we were really lucky, someone might give us their spare change. “Why don’t YOU just give us the change in the bottom of your purse and then we can wait inside where it’s COOL?” demanded Chickadee. I of course smiled at my precious daughter and told her to shut up and look more needy.
So we stood there by the display of “ASSORTED PERENNIALS.” The kids flicked the leaves on a nearby potted plant. “What kind of plant is this, Mama?” asked Chickadee. I squinted at it. It didn’t look familiar. I read the little stake tag.
“It’s an assorted potted perennial, honey.”
“No, what is it REALLY?” she pressed.
“Read the tag,” I replied. She did, and seemed quite deflated. Then she looked so sad that someone threw her a dime and she perked right up. Except that I made that up. We just got into a discussion about perennials and annuals and how yes, probably a more superior mother would know what sort of plant it was even if it wasn’t labelled.
While we were discussing the finer points of truth in advertising and how that plant really should be more specifically marked, I was pausing every so often to either look at my watch or gently take Monkey’s shoulders and pull him back from the automatic sliding door. He was delighting in tripping the sensor and making it open. After the first “please don’t waste power and let the hot air inside” admonition, he stopped leaping into the path of the sensor at random. Instead, he would just dart forward every time he saw someone coming or going, and trigger the door for them with a flourish of his arm.
Unfortunately, he would often then forget to move. So he’d be standing there all triumphant and whatnot, and the passersby would have to work their way around his flourish while I grabbed for him and he beamed, “Don’t worry, I got the door for ya!”
When the teenagers in smocks started coming through with lines of carts from the parking lot, I pulled Monkey back and told him he needed to stand right with me so he wouldn’t be run over. Unfazed, he switched to extending his arm in a grandiose manner and intoning, “Door, OPEN!” each time someone approached. The approacher would trip the sensor, the door would open, and Monkey would proclaim his amazing telekinetic powers. “MAMA, I’m making the door obey me!”
One of the cart boys trundled up and actually paused to behold Monkey’s elaborate arm-waving. “What’s he doing?” he asked me.
“He’s exercising his dominion over the door, obviously.” I used my best “well aren’t YOU a moron” tone and Cart Boy returned the favor with a pointed “I suspect you’re crazy but I’m worried that if I respond you’ll kill me and eat my liver” look. I smiled back at him and patted Monkey on the head.
“Mama, I could totally have a job here controlling this door,” Monkey crowed as Cart Boy scurried inside.
“You sure could, baby. You’re VERY talented.”
Chickadee tapped my hip. “Mama? He’s not really–” I pulled her into my side in an abrupt hug which rendered her unable to complete her sentence. Then I pivoted around so that I was between her and her brother, and leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“I know, honey. But he doesn’t know that, and he’s having fun. Let’s not wreck it, okay?” When I felt her nod where I’d pinned her against me, I loosened my grip.
“But he’s NOT controlling the door,” she whispered with urgency. “Right? Mama?” I nodded and smoothed a piece of hair behind her ear while I leaned down again.
“It’s making him happy, Chickie,” I murmured. “Just look.” And together we watched as he flailed his arms yet again and called out “Go ahead!” to a young woman who thanked him profusely on her way inside. He swelled with pride and added “No problem!”
“It doesn’t take very much to make him happy I guess,” Chickadee remarked.
“Nope,” I agreed. “It sure doesn’t. How lucky.” And my daughter leaned into me and I hooked my arm around her. We were still together as we drank in his simple joy. When Monkey noticed us watching him, he ran over and flung his arms out to gather us into a little circle.
“You are my two favorite girls,” he sighed. We stood there for a moment in his embrace. “And I can’t wait to open that door for you,” he added. My children giggled at each other and I squeezed them tighter in our group hug. And I vowed right then and there to buy them all the pop-tarts and blueberries and green beans and chicken they wanted.