Usually these Saturday morning trips are a date thing with Mike and me. We’re up before anyone else (pretty much any time before noon, so don’t be impressed) and heading downtown on bikes.
On this morning, Mike had something else going on, and I had a kind of Pollyanna moment: wouldn’t it be wonderful for a few adolescents who might otherwise not see sunlight all day long to join me in the fresh air for a spell?
When the boys were little taking them shopping was torture by tantrum. Throw in some whining, and spontaneous fistfights, and the likelihood that someone would upend something or get lost, and I was a delightful person to be around by the time we pulled back into the garage.
I’d try to get a jump on things on the way out, lobbing empty threats outlining reasonable consequences for the behavior I thought most likely:
“We’re getting groceries, not snacks. If I find anything in the cart that I didn’t put there, I will come home and gather up all the toys in the house and give them to charity.”
“If for any reason we have to leave the store before I have each and every thing on my list, you, and any children you ever have, and all of their children, will be grounded.”
Mike and I usually tried to arrange for one of us to stay home with the kiddos while the other person shopped. That couldn’t always be managed. Sometimes they had to be part of the shopping experience. Which is part of the story behind why I developed a habit of early afternoon drinking on the weekend.
But my kids are nearly grown, my inner Pollyanna told me, a little family excursion would be FUN now.
Besides getting people out of the house, I also had a little list:
- Bring home some crafty little tchotchke or another for my mom and mom-in-law that showed Mother’s Day love and appreciation without needing to dusting, watering, or ironing.
- Buy a roast for dinner sometime that week, and
- Pick up a couple tomato plants I’d preordered from a friend weeks ago and kept forgetting to pick up from her shop downtown.
The market was as crowded as it usually is, and the first thing I realized was that each of us, the boys, Hanna and I, had different ideas about how to navigate this scene. I think a couple members of our party had also skipped breakfast and were well on the way to Cranksville. Jack complained about how slowly I was walking, Colin disappeared somewhere up ahead, looking for donuts, and Hanna ducked off to one side to watch someone making crepes.
I wound my way through the crowd, looking at an occasional scarf or wall hanging, trying to keep track of people who didn’t care to be kept track of, and fielding a growing list of complaints from a fifteen year-old who’d come to realize he didn’t want to be shopping with mom on a Saturday morning.
After about forty seconds, I was in very real danger of losing my cool in a public place and leaving without even a Mom’s day trinket or two. I gathered everyone and told them we’d split up so they could do whatever the heck they wanted, as long as we kept in touch via text and met up somewhere at the end of the long line of stalls.
Colin had left his phone at home, so he was stuck with me. I placated him with the donut idea.
“I’m not really feeling like a donut,” he said.
Which is about like him saying I’d really like to write a book report.
I felt his forehead. No temperature. Hmm.
I started suggested snacks from each of the booths we passed: raw goat cheese, croquetas, octopus sushi, kale chips, curry. Turns out, what he really wanted was pizza. And “not street pizza, either,” but pizza someplace where we could sit down.
Of course. Pizza. If this kid actually is what he eats, then he’s about sixty percent cheese, sauce, and bread, and the other forty percent cold cereal.
Fine. But we’d put off the pizza thing for another fifteen minutes while I found some scented soaps and sachets for the moms, and then sally over to my favorite little rancher family to buy a roast.
I love this cute, little family. They have an outfit right outside of town where they keep a kind of Scottish highland cattle with long hair that makes me jealous. They wear cowboy hats and Wranglers and their front man is a guy who is at least six and a half feet tall with a baby face, and whose name – I kid you not – is Hoss.
I don’t know about you, but Hoss is the kind of name that just puts me in the mood for steak.
So I asked Hoss for a roast and he let me pick my own out of their freezer – four pounds of free range, long-haired bovine from just outside town.
“That’ll be sixty-five dollars,” Hoss said, as I handed over my card.
Wait. What did he just say?
“Mom, are we done? I’m hungry.” Colin said. My phone chirped out a text.
Where are you guys?
Colin ducked into the crowd.
Hoss handed back my card and held his phone out for me to sign away the financial equivalent of half a week’s worth of groceries.
I signed, too flabbergasted to say what the hell, Hoss? Is this unicorn meat?
My phone chirped again.
I texted back to both Hanna and Jack: meet us for pizza. I found a patio and Colin, and some cheese and pepperoni. Jack and Hanna found us. Everybody ate. I had a beer. It had to be at least noon after all. …Ish.
Next week I’d have my wits about me. Next week I’d leave the kids home. Next week I’d find a different little ranch family with cows that didn’t have rock star hair or Hoss. Next week wouldn’t feel so much like a fiasco.
On the way home, I realized I’d forgotten to stop and pick up my tomato plants.
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