To begin with, I was too tired. We had stayed up way too late the night before, something about a DVR’d two hour finale of Downton Abbey. Then I was up way too early with a child who was being tortured by a stopped up nostril. We’ve had an ongoing conversation for many years now. I say, Just breathe through your mouth! She says, I can’t breathe through my mouth! I say, Really.
And then we wind up sitting on the couch squinting into the bright lights of the TV, watching My Little Pony at an hour when only nurses and serial killers are awake. When I was considering motherhood ten years ago, I never imagined a life where someone else’s nostril issues would cause me to lose sleep.
So, that’s one reason that I began the day in no condition to tackle grocery shopping with a huge list and a strict budget and a six year old and a 21 month old there to “help.” But, there was no getting around the fact that we had no food to eat. So, I decided I was going to go ahead with the badly laid plan to drag myself to the store. You might say that I began with a bad attitude. When we started the twenty minute drive to WalMart and Emerald began crying, I may have brooded a little bit. By the time we were halfway there and the crying still hadn’t let up, I had a moment.
I suddenly felt completely overwhelmed by the task at hand. In fact, I felt like turning the car around, driving home, and feeding the children a jar of olives and some pickle spears, since that’s pretty much all we had in the fridge that was somewhat edible. But, truthfully, I hate olives, and I didn’t want to get all dramatic about my mama meltdown here in the minivan. After all, I could vaguely make out the tune of The Sound of Music as it played on the DVD player in the background.
The kids have fallen in love with Maria and all of her escapades since they got the movie for Christmas, so Julie Andrews has sung the soundtrack to my life in the past few months. Occasionally Emerald would have to pause in her screaming to take in air. So, I brooded and I sulked and I felt totally inadequate, and I listened to Maaamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! (How do you solve a problem like Maria?) Maaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaaa! (A flibbety-jibbit, a will-of-a-wisp, a clown.) Maaaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaa! And I began wondering how you solve a problem like a baby screaming her way to the grocery trip you don’t want to take. How do you solve the problem of not-enough-sleep and way too many items on the list? How do you solve the problem of a true and living and violent hate for WalMart at 5:00 on a Monday afternoon?
And then there’s this: how can you be sad when Julie Andrews is singing to you? How can you feel blue when she is cheering I have confidence in me through your mediocre minivan speakers? All of these things were going through my weary mind as we pulled into the WalMart parking lot. While the kids were still confined to their seats, I took out my grocery list and started trying to pump myself up for this experience. Come on, Melissa! I pep-talked, You have confidence in you! You are a mother of three! You have birthed nine pound babies! You can DO THIS! Yeah!!!! And while the Rocky theme played faintly in the back of my mind somewhere, I put on my brightest Mommy’s Got This smile and pulled those babies out of the car. We were going to rock this grocery shopping experience. People would probably write handbooks about grocery shopping based on this particular trip. I was feeling it. I was ready.
And then we actually got inside the building.
And Emerald wanted to ride in the basket. For 2.3 seconds. And then she wanted to walk–no, dance–no, crawl–no, meander–no, run aimlessly–through the store. She cried a lot. She wanted to sit in the cart and draw on my grocery list. Then she wanted to walk and draw–not easy to do, especially when you aren’t that proficient at regular walking yet. I was trying so hard to stick to my budget, so I wrote down the price of every item as I put it in the cart. This means that every time I picked something up I had to wrestle the pen and paper out of the little darling’s hand to write down the number. Why didn’t you give her a DIFFERENT piece of paper and a DIFFERENT pen, some of you are thinking right now. Well, my purse is sort of like the inside of our fridge. Lots of trash and not much that is useful in the moment. I had chewed gum. I had lots of old receipts. I had an UNSHARPENED pencil. Oh, yes. I was well prepared.
By the time we got to the checkout, I felt like I had run a marathon in the middle of a thunderstorm. People were glancing my way with pity? admiration? I had survived. I had gotten every single item on my list. I had stuck to my budget. I had won the day. I started putting our things on the conveyor belt, so close now to walking out of the store having stayed on budget despite millions of distractions in the form of a blonde haired baby girl. I was expecting the total to be right around $105. Five dollars over budget, but I felt like I deserved the extra five bucks spent on fiber bars or something else equally boring. The cashier scanned my last item and read my total: $122.
I considered cussing.
Obviously I had forgotten to write down a few things. I paid the lady, my shoulders slumped in defeat. I had gone through TWO HOURS of the type of torture that makes a stopped up nostril look like child’s play. All so I could stay on budget. Being meticulous in a haphazard fashion. Doing math. That is real sacrifice. And I had failed miserably. And Emerald had eaten at least three packages of fruit snacks. And in the frozen food aisle Sawyer had sung a song that included the lyrics Oh Mama, you have so much to learn, don’t you?
Why, yes. Yes, I do.
I drove home in a sullen state. I cranked up Julie Andrews and I tried to focus on how the hills are alive with the sound of music. I sang along. I knew that this grocery trip, the terror that it was, would be completely underappreciated by anyone who wasn’t there to see it take place. I knew that it would be impossible to truly put into words how totally loser-ish I felt as the final total was read by the oblivious checker. Yet, I was reminded that this experience hadn’t been witnessed just by the six year old and a few disinterested shoppers. Actually, God had witnessed the whole crazy affair. And He saw the pacifying and the adding in crooked columns and the sweat and the effort that went into the seemingly failed venture.
Not only that, but He carried me through the whole thing. And, even though in the grand scheme of life’s problems this trip really wasn’t one, it’s nice to know that I have a God who sees me, who knows me, and who understands that sometimes just the day to day chores of being a mother are enough to bring me to my knees. He sees the storms that brew in my heart, and He calms them.
Later in the evening, the two older kids were in bed and Emerald and I were sitting on the couch, hanging out for just a few minutes before her bedtime. She suddenly looked up at me with the brightest smile on her face, pointed at me with her chubby little finger, and said, Mama, sing Doe.
I looked into those crystal blue eyes of hers and thanked God that she is around to give me a headache in WalMart. And, then in true Julie Andrews fashion, I sang to the child of a million distractions: Doe, a deer, a female deer. . .