There comes a time in every parent's life when errands must be done.
Some families have systematized methods involving spreadsheets, dry-erase boards and color-coded calendars. In our house, we know it's time to dash downtown after the last opaque drop of cream disappears into a dark well of coffee. Once we're in errand-mode, there's always more to do.
Thank goodness for the older ladies in the post office queue, who gush over my children while I'm as stiff as a starched collar praying Col won't fall off the long, narrow table meant for shuffling heavy packages along. It doesn't help that Rose is writhing around the table's poles, exhibiting propensities towards a lucrative, though questionable, future career. The kids routinely reward their waiting-in-line patience by stuffing themselves in the large, open post office boxes while I stand nearby, offering reassuring smiles to concerned onlookers.
By errand number three, the childish charm that so delights the grandmas has lost me. I just see two criminals plotting to thwart my approach to the dairy aisle.
I hate that grocery shopping with two kids feels somewhat like dodging bullets while running uphill through a steep forest. My pursuers are clever, employing all manner of snarky tricks to keep my adrenaline pulsing. There's the garden-variety whining over the one-gulp, individually wrapped cheeses I won't buy. Or the sneaky, premature bites of lunchbox Z-bars. And the unthinkable: when Col licked spilled honey off Nature's Oasis' floor.
The bulk section is both indispensable and problematic. All the beckoning scoops and tiny offerings in their cute Plexiglas cages dazzle the kids, creating plead-fests over something they would actually loathe, such as wasabi peas. And waiting while I load bags, scribble codes and wrap-twist ties takes years off their precious lives.
My white knuckles on the shopping cart relax when I'm reminded that I'm never alone. I see two cutie-pie brothers rocketing down the cookie aisle re-enacting football plays with a box of pudding mix. Behind them, a snarling mother hooks the boys' collars - in a most impressive athletic feat - and growls at them to settle down. Other moms are simply shell-shocked, pushing the goofy car-carts, their kids whaling on steering wheel horns while lollipops jam their mouths in hopes of quelling the 1,000 wants that bloom in a supermarket aisles.
My kids often drop their own snack-bribes to assume "greeter" roles at the door of the local co-op, while I'm unloading a cart full of food sure to satiate us for at least three days. One day, an amused shopper inquired after the welcome crew's ages.
"Two and four." I replied. "They're a handful."
"A heartful," she corrected.
Those words have stayed with me like a first kiss.
Now, when we're aiming for the dairy aisle and one child is lobbying for fat-free whipped cream and the other is breakdancing down the linoleum, I remember that although it feels like my hands are tied while bullets whir by, my heart sings with gratitude because it's a crowded place.
Rachel Turiel finds herself shopping at no less than three different Durango food stores far too often. Her column runs the first and third Sunday. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.