Although it was a miserable day outside and the sky was spitting cold rain I had this idea that the one year old and I would make a quick trip to the supermarket to get a couple of things. Like there is such thing as a quick trip with a one year old. Especially on a rainy day. Generally, this time of year, just getting him into his cold weather gear and out the door is a feat.
First we do the Hat Song and Dance for about ten minutes, where I put his hat on his head and he says, “Hat!” and takes it off, and I put it on again and he takes it off again, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. Then we do the Vacuum Cleaner Dance, where I am in the mud room trying to lace up my boots (what the hell was I thinking, picking out these time-consuming lace-up boots, anyway?) and Cayce is busy pushing over the vacuum cleaner and I am calling “Cayce! Cayce come to Mama!” to no avail. So it was one of these kinds of days, a day that has you pining for summer and freedom from hats and coats and boots. A day when getting the little man strapped into his car seat where he can wreak no havoc comes with a wave of relief. When you collapse behind the wheel of the car and thank god for the gas peddle that will do the heavy lifting for a while.
But on an island the drive to the market is woefully short. Five minutes later we are in the store parking lot. The sky is still puking a cold, chilling spray. With the lanky twenty-three pound boy thrown over my shoulder I search in vain for a dry shopping cart. The thing that really throws a wrench into shopping with a small child on a rainy day on this island is not the toddler’s natural propensity for mischief but the fact that, even though our local Stop & Shop is the highest grossing store in the chain countrywide, and even though our climate sees a higher than average amount of rainfall, we are probably also the only branch in the country that has no shelter for the darn carts. So on a rainy day all the carts are left outside to get wet. In any other town, people would just go to another store. But here we don’t have another option, so even if you don’t have child transportation to consider, you have no choice but to get your expensive groceries wet. That was an inconvenience I could live with, but getting my child who is fighting a cold wet is another thing.
Earlier in the month when we were out on a wet day I had the wherewithal to ask a store manager to please get me some paper towels, so I could dry the seat out for my kid. Yesterday I was so harried by the time I even got to the store, I forgot all about my previous tactic. Instead I made the faulty assessment that since we were just getting “a couple of things” I could forgo the cart and either walk around with Cayce in my arms, and a basket dangling over one wrist, or have him walk with me, holding my hand.
Ha! Ha! Ha! I thought wrong. Carrying him worked for the first five minutes. Except for the fact that it was hard to see my way around corners, and I had a tendency to sideswipe other shoppers, his weight felt manageable at first. I peeled him a banana as I often do when we shop, but this time I would have to ignore the fact that he was holding onto ropes of my hair with his fruity hands. Eventually the basket filled and got so heavy I had to put the boy down. What a lark thinking he would hold my hand. He kept pulling his hand away and darting at the things on the shelves. I tried to get creative now, in how I was going to manage the basket, which wasn’t holding all the things I in fact wanted to buy, and the boy, who wasn’t for one minute going to be held back by me.
I thought enlisting his help might keep him on task.
“Here, Honey. Will you carry the paper towel for Mommy?”
The roll of towel was as big as his torso. His arms barely reached around it. He looked like an ant with an oversize breadcrumb. It would pad him if he fell, I thought, fleetingly, when really I knew that he would need use of his hands Out of the corner of my eye I was sure I could see people shooting me scrupulous glances.
Quickly stuffing the roll under my own arm I said, “Hold Mommy’s hand.” Teetering and top-heavy, like the blind leading the blind, Mommy saying “No touch, no touch” and Cayce reaching his outstretched hand toward the rows of brightly packaged Valentine’s goods, we made our way to a check out aisle.
I held Cayce up on the cashier’s counter while I watched the groceries pile up on top of the end of the spinning belt. That spinning belt was a sure hazard for active toddler whose feet were now in dangerous proximity.
I mumbled something to the cashier about how I couldn’t find a dry cart, and how was I going to make it back to my car now, with my bags AND the baby? I knew this kind of thing must happen to other parents. No, other parents would have brought one of those cloth seat inserts for germ-o-phobes and called it a day.
Thank god the cashier saw a cart and ran quickly to my aid to get it. Now I could get the baby into the dry seat and out of way of the spinning conveyor belt. And I could get my groceries and my child back to the car. Without looking like a total freak doing it.
So any one out there who caught a gander at the two of us trying to accomplish the most basic task among civilized beings and struggling pathetically at it, and who perhaps thought, “That is one dysfunctional mom,” I rest my case. It was not my fault. It was all because of Stop and Shop and their darned wet carts.
All I ask is that the next time you are tempted to make mock of a parent who is doing a lousy job in public, try to think of the big picture. Maybe they were just having a Bad Chair Day. We all have those, don’t we?