It had been a busy few months or so with school starting back up and our senior running cross country twice a week. Our lives were revolving around homework, jobs, and racing off over hill and dale, following the sweaty pack. Somewhere in there, there was a three-acre lawn to be mowed, a mountain of laundry to wash, and five starving men nearing the riot point.
After a particularly hectic and fractious week, I had had enough. I say hectic because in addition to the above-mentioned activities, we had just been tee-peed for the third weekend in a row.
The first two weeks it was funny. We chuckled. “Isn’t that a work of art?” we’d say to each other as the boys would head out to clean up the yard.
By the third week, however, the chuckling had stopped. The small fry on clean-up detail were disgruntled and ready to shoot at anything that moved in the trees.
I say fractious because it had been a particularly challenging week for me with two of the boys. “Where does a mom go to resign?” I queried aloud. My husband peered at me, looking slightly anxious.
By the end of the week, we were completely exhausted, and the family ties were fraying around the edges. Feeling a need for some time together sans lectures, hyperventilation, and bullwhips, I implored Mr. Schrock to whisk us away to LePeep’s, a favorite breakfast spot. To his everlasting credit, he agreed, and we called in the constituents for a vote.
Recalling the chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP, son number two immediately demanded that this be added to the ballot. When he only managed to conjure up one other vote, he began a campaign of threats, manipulation, and extortion, which was promptly shut down by the election committee.
At long last, with everyone rousted out to the van, we were nearly ready to go when it dawned on the driver that our tags were expiring that very day. He bustled back into the house to find the tag. Just as he bent over, trying to apply a sticker the size of a comma to the corner of the license plate, a scuffle broke out in the back seat, and the van began rocking from side to side. Angry shouts from behind the van testified to the difficulty of his task. When he finally slid into the driver’s seat, cross-eyed and sweating profusely, I knew instantly – this man needed food. “Step on it,” I ordered.
With the baby and his eight teeth hammering down on my peasant potatoes and granola-crusted French toast, we settled in to enjoy some family time. After several rounds of coffee and hot chocolate, with laughter flowing, frazzled nerves began calming. Our formerly merry little band was becoming merry once again.
When Little Houdini slithered out of his seatbelt, stood up in the high chair, and attempted to climb onto the table to wreak his particular brand of havoc, it was clear that it was time to go. Thanks to his alert father, his mission was aborted. To gather my strength for phase two (shopping with the “merry little band”), I finished my coffee, girded my loins, and we set off.
True to form, every pair of sneakers bolted en masse for the electronics department, leaving me with Houdini. In short order, he’d divested himself of yet another seat belt, so I stowed him in the back of the cart. There, he promptly proceeded to chuck all my purchases out onto the floor as fast as I could pick them up.
After spending 30 seconds in the toothpaste aisle with my head between my knees, the lightheadedness resolved and I set off to find his father. Spotting him in aisle six, I executed a handoff so smooth that I was clear over in stationery before he knew what had hit him.
Chortling in victory, I spent several happy, uninterrupted minutes browsing through cards before looking up and spotting two aliens trying out the game systems across the aisle. One of them was wearing a Bart Simpson mask and the other one was wearing a yellow wig. Both of them looked strangely familiar. Or, I should say, both pairs of jeans looked strangely familiar.
They were playing intently without a care in the world, completely oblivious to the fact that they looked like they had, between the two of them, six brain cells on a high-functioning day. With the victory chuckles dissipating, I slunk away before they could turn around, spot me, and holler my name.
You know, sharing a relaxing meal together after a tough week is a wonderful thing, but shopping with this gang goes beyond the pale. Tiptoeing past sleeping junkyard dogs wearing trousers made of red meat would be less daunting. I’ve decided that next time, I’m either going alone or I’ll be the one wearing a ridiculous mask. I mean it.
While this previously unpublished piece was written three years ago, it’s all still true. We still love LePeep’s, the boys still love electronics, and I shop alone or in a mask. You may wave quietly if you see me. Just don’t shout my name.