Monday, March 22, 2010

The Express Lane

On at least a weekly basis, I enter Kroger armed with my diaper bag and reusable bag, which is filled with other reusable bags, hanging on my shoulder; Ben in his carrier on the bend of my right arm; and Cate, who usually has a purse, plastic cell phone or some other entertaining accessory, holding my left hand. Of course, all of this after I park next to the cart return thing.

And, strangely enough, I don't mind grocery shopping. I even take coupons and a list.

Cate doesn't mind Kroger because she gets to drive. And, thankfully, those car carts also accommodate my second child.

Today, my second child was crying. Really, I should probably say he was screaming. I only had a couple thoughts on the matter: "Maybe his gums are bothering him." [So I stopped near the meat department and applied some Orajel.] Or "I guess he's mad he's not swinging anymore."

Let me tell you. A crying/screaming baby sure attracts comments.

"Is that you making all that noise?" From someone I know who looked right at me when she said it. "Um, no, not me." Then I smiled.

"Oh, now, he's not happy." Um, you think?

"I remember those days." Then she smiled, like she really wanted to tell me it was going to be OK. I smiled back, wanting to say I've had louder, more intense moments from one or both of my children.

Somewhere in there, I saw my friend Sarah, whose son, Davey, is 3 1/2 weeks older than Ben. She doesn't see me and I'm really pretty surprised she doesn't look up, recognizing the sound of an unhappy child. So I texted her, and we happily ran into each other in Aisle 5. "I don't know what's wrong with him," I told her. Then I realized she, of all people, doesn't need an explanation, even though at the moment her son was sitting quietly in his carrier in the cart, surrounded by packages food.

"He's a dude and doesn't want to shop," Sarah said.

Her humor encouraged me. And we talked about Cherry 7 Up because she's the second friend in less than a week to have this intriguing beverage. [Yes, later, in the carbonated beverage aisle I pick up a case of the diet version of this drink while apparently resembles a Sonic Cherry Limeade.]

Sarah's phone rang and Ben was still crying so we went separate ways. Ben only cried for a few more aisles. Then he gave into some sort of contentment for the last portion of the grocery shopping trip, which included Cate's request for a bathroom break.

And, yes, there are comments when you're carrying your baby in his carrier on one arm and holding your toddler's hand while walking into the store bathroom ...

"You'll miss these days. You don't think you will. But you will. My 16-year-old son just got glasses." Um, not sure how the glasses are related, but I do realize I will miss this. Probably not so much the group trip to the Kroger bathroom in the middle of the grocery shopping experience. But definitely the little people who need you and want you and think you're the best thing since the cheese cubes you let her pick out in the dairy section.

In front of us in the check-out line, which was at least six people deep, Cate struck up a conversation with a grandfatherly farmer, who has a granddaughter "about her age," he tell us. Turns out, the granddaughter is a year older, likes to wear pinks, has a special bond with his farm animals and likes to eat white beans, fried cornbread and cabbage. Somehow the grandfatherly farmer and I didn't manage to discuss why there were only two check-out lanes open, one of which was the express lane, for which he qualified with his 2-liter of cola, ice cream and cabbage, or why he chose to stand in the long line with his obviously less than 15 items.

I'm glad life doesn't have an express line. It may be chaotic and unpredictable, but life is these moments. These people. These words. This time. And I do realize it's not going to be like this forever.

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