We’re in the grocery store, her and I, on a chaotic Saturday full of grocery tourists and genuinely harried couples and parents. Here and there a baby screams-not the “I’m hungry” cry but the “FUCK YOU I WANT OUT NOW!” cry which was the sole reason I NEVER took my children to the grocery store as infants. The screaming continues sporadically in the produce section, likely a mother unable to get out otherwise, and I cringe in sympathy. Crying doesn’t bother me anymore-it just makes me want to take the child so the parents can just get their shit done.
Of course, hearing the yuppie parents of one single, quiet maybe 2 year old boy explain in perfect enunciation that “We aren’t going to squish the bread today!” made me walk quickly away laughing. What 2 year old WON’T squish the bread? It’s fun! I don’t bother making any type of contact since I do know the type of parents-they won’t acknowledge me, they won’t exchange pithy jokes and comments. And this rings true later when we go to the cash behind them, and my comments with Vivian about the toy the little boy is lucky to get are ignored. Perhaps they’re busy, perhaps they’re deaf, but right then, rude was rude. I remind myself they could be many things going on, and gee he’s pretty darn cute.
I’m not the center of the universe.
Vivian, now used to grocery shopping, has morphed into the child we know and love from Saturday morning cartoons:
“Can I have this?”
“I want this. Can I have it?”
“It’s got SCOOBY DOO ON IT! I need it!”
The entire trip involves me saying NO every 4.2 seconds. Reminding myself why I do prefer to do this alone.
But then it’s not as fun. She comes around the corner with a stack of beer cups held to her eyes like goggles, and I laugh and giggle and block the aisle. She walks into a display while doing this, and it’s all I can do to not fall down I’m laughing so hard. I can feel the soft glow of other people smiling as my world spirals to just Vivian and myself, our eyes and laughter. I forget about the asks and remember my fantastical little girl who creates such wonder and delight around her.
“Back to juice boxes.” I snigger.
I give her a little speech on how we’re gonna get a second Klean Kanteen for school, and this is just for now. She’s not paying attention, and I wonder if the speech was for her, or the people around her. She randomly chooses some sugar laden box, and we move on.
It hits me. I am buying school lunches.
In 2 weeks, give or take, she starts school. And most of me, mainly my ears, are ok with this. She’s growing up, she’s FIVE (holyshitwheredidthoseyearsgo?) and I need to back off. I let her run ahead, I let her lag behind. I trust her to make small decisions. It’s time to start pulling back. But holding juice boxes, granola bars, Joe Louis’ in my hands, I wanted to be sad. My mother stood there once, trying to decide what was best for lunch, what was needed, what I would eat out of sight. She held those boxes, reading. She imagined a life emptied, for a time, of her daughter.
Connection with a long dead mother in a grocery store. I felt her then, in front of plastic fruit snacks. I felt her indecision, her pride, her love, such warm love, for me, and for her granddaughter, for the woman she’d one day be. I felt the conflict of that first day, of letting go of your baby. I felt that it was ok to feel this-to want to hold closer than skin and push out, all at once. That this was the least of my trials in the years ahead.
We got home and I realized I forgot garbage bags, cat food, cheese. But I held something much sweeter to my chest.