The other day I had fall fever. Since I only have two little ones at home now I decided to go out to lunch and then run a few errands, including stopping by the local bookstore. (My first mistake was assuming that not having the two older children who are actually mostly helpful these days when we have stuff to get accomplished would somehow make it easier to take on the world.) I ordered roasted butternut squash soup. It was creamy and a beautiful orange. Its vibrant hue matched Thomas’s shirt. Mary Elizabeth indulged in a pumpkin sugar cookie to keep up with the orange-themed day.
Thomas screeched a few times during lunch, but he did quite well and more food ended up in his mouth than on his face and his belly. He did spill his cup of ice water, and the employee seemed mildly annoyed when I asked for help cleaning it up after I’d tried to soak up the lake with a generous stack of napkins. Whatever. Welcome to the restaurant industry. Spills happen.
The fall breeze outside, a perennially satisfying bowl of soup swimming in my tummy, and all that orange had me aglow with optimism, so I decided we definitely could handle a few more stops before heading home for quiet time.
Next up was the bookstore. I was looking for a birthday gift for an 8-year-old boy. Mary Elizabeth quietly perused a book while Thomas brought a menagerie of stuffed animals to my feet. “You’ll have to help me clean those up, okay?” I say.
“Kay!” he says agreeably.
But when it came time to return all of creation to its proper place, he shouted, “No!” and ran away on his quick, fat feet. I chased after him and when I scooped him up in my arms, I knew he had made me a wonderful, stinky present.
“Mary Elizabeth, it’s time to go,” I announce. Poop is always our cue to leave.
“One more book?”
I have trouble saying no to more book-perusing. “One more book. But that’s it.”
Of course, after that one more book was closed, there was the request for one more book. Fortunately, I didn’t have to squabble with her too much, and she got up from her cozy, reading spot to follow me. Thomas, on the other hand, shouted, “No!” once again when I approached him. I handed a book I was buying to the little stinker (in more ways than one) and made a game out of making it to the cash registers.
Tantrum number one averted. She scores! Go, Mommy!
Once at the cash register, I watch anxiously as a customer and the cashier debate about whether he should purchase the membership card. Enough with the chit-chat already, I thought. Thomas is pulling every single colorful gift bag from a display. “Put that back, Thomas, please.”
Now the the cashier and customer are bantering about his clever email address, which I didn’t catch. I honestly don’t care how clever his email address is. Just check out already. The ridiculously long transaction finally comes to a close, and the woman smiles and says, “Next.”
I scramble to clean up the gift bags. Thomas is on to a nearby display of bobble heads. Mary Elizabeth eyes the ugliest bobble head I’ve ever seen. The child is like a crow and typically drawn to pretty, shiny things, but she picks up the ugly bobble head, which I see now is marketed as a Despicable Me character. “I wish I could get this,” she says, which really is a nice way of saying, “Why can’t you be an awesome Mommy and buy me this random piece of junk?”
“Why?” I ask, not meaning to sound quite so disgusted.
She looks at the doll’s odd face. “Because I like its pointy nose.” Who doesn’t like pointy noses? And what house and family doesn’t need a bobble head with a really pointy nose?
“Please put it back,” I say. She stares at it longingly, but she does put it back. In the process, she knocks down a tower of bobble heads. Thomas picks one up and chucks it. The kid’s got quite the arm. I’ll give him that.
We finally make it to the smiling cashier who immediately begins trying to get me to sign up for the membership card thingy. “No, thank you.”
“I wish I could have a piece of chocolate,” Mary Elizabeth says as she eyes the delicious display of chocolate enclosed in glittery-gold wrappers.
“Chocolattteeeeee!” Thomas chimes in.
“You guys just had a cookie,” I say.
“Cookie, cookie,” Thomas says hopefully with his gloriously big, brown eyes shining at me, thinking that my saying the word “cookie” means he’s getting another one.
I resist his charms, although I’m starting to think binging on chocolate might be nice. “No. You already ate the cookie,” I say.
And now its gooey deliciousness is in your pants, I think.
I’m scrambling to find my wallet in the black hole I call my purse where diapers, wipes, enough snacks to fill a pantry, myriad treasures (AKA rocks, pieces of pinestraw, etc.) my kids have gifted me with, and water bottles call their home as the cashier, who seems impervious to the fact that I have two antsy kids in my wake, is asking me if I want to grab one more children’s book to get a $1 off the children’s book I’m already purchasing during their special fall promotion.
“I…” I stammer, considering if I should venture back to the kids’ section and grab another book for the sake of a buck.
Thomas makes the decision for us by picking up an audio book and hurling it, nearly missing another customer. I mumble an apology and watch as he then follows after it like a skilled Labrador retriever but before he can grab the box, I get to to it. I put it back, and he comes at me like I’ve just stolen a prize duck and barrels into me. I lift him and try to hold him in the way kind, patient mothers do, but his arms are flailing and he’s going for the hair now and climbing me like a crazed monkey. He is crying and screeching and shaking with a fierce anger. No diffusing this titanic tantrum.
“No, thank you,” I tell the cashier.
“Are you sure?”
“I think he’s reached his limit,” I say.
“I understand,” she says.
Do you? I wonder.
“Do you need gift receipts with either of these books?”
You don’t understand, you little liar. Just let me pay. Now.
“Oh, you smell,” I say to Thomas since I now have him in the football hold and my nose is closer to the offensive bum.
“He does,” the cashier says.
Well, I’ve been trying to hightail it out of here and would have been finished by now if you hadn’t told me about every single promotion in this store.
“I am sorry,” I say.
“Don’t be,” she says.
Oh, don’t worry, I’m not really.
Finally, she hands me my purchase and the receipt, and we flee for the door.
I stuff a stinky, squawking 2-year-old in to his carseat, and I realize that I had completely forgotten why moms of 2-year-olds stay holed up in their homes. We were supposed to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few items, but my momnesia – the amazing ability mothers have to forget about everything that’s less than desirable in the trenches of motherhood from labor pains to the bone-aching exhaustion of chasing after rogue littles day after day – was quickly fading, and I recalled our trip to Kroger last week and how Thomas threw every item I put in the cart on the ground and giggled at his hilariousness, watching Mommy bend over again and again to pick up whatever he’d tossed out of the cart. How he reached the items remains a mystery to me. He was buckled in the front part of the cart; yet, his arms somehow developed an elastic ability and reached the contents with ease.
The kids calmed down in the car. I savored the silence and took a few deep breaths and imagined myself eating all that chocolate. We made it home where after I tackled the atomic waste in my boy’s pants (I don’t attempt to change his diaper anywhere but home unless it is an absolute emergency because of the wrestling match that ensues and because poop always ends up somewhere on my body) we three snuggled together as I read a stack of books to them. In a mess of arms still glazed with cookie, we reclaimed our peace; the feudal lord called a toddler yielded and leaned into my body; the 4-year-old rested her head upon my shoulder. I closed the last book. We cuddled some more, and the momnesisa started again. Soon enough I would venture outside this lovely cloister where I’d risk my sanity again and try to do too much with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old in tow. But for now, I’ve forgotten the harrowing trip to the bookstore. Or maybe I just don’t care because in that moment, I am unabashedly happy and so are my children, and it is this brand of bliss that keeps me coming back for more.