I mean, she's the kind of friend who'll visit during a raging flea infestation. What's not to be excited about?
We decided to make dinner, so a trip to the grocery store was in order.
I'd just been to the grocery store that morning. It had been one of those frantic runs. Chuck and I were the soccer snack parents for a 9 a.m. game and of course, we'd remembered at the last minute. I'd raced out at 8:05 a.m. with no make-up on, shitty clothes, eye goop still in my eyes to spend $50 on pre-cut fruit.
The morning went downhill from there. At 8:45, we couldn't find Junior's shin guards. Everett's cleats were caked in mud. Cam sat on the kitchen floor and wailed to anyone who would listen: "Why don't I have a soccer team? WHY?"
There wasn't enough milk for cereal —"Didn't you just go to the grocery store?" Chuck wanted to know — and, because we sprinted out of the house, the boys left their water bottles on the counter.
FRANTIC. FRAZZLED. HOT MESS. All of us.
Anyway. On my second trip to the store, my friend and I sat and brainstormed a shopping list. In the quiet of the car, I started to feel funny.
"Do you have orzo at home?" she asked.
There was suddenly a lump in my throat.
My friend opened her wallet, which had a special compartment for her store cards and coupons, and rifled through them. Then she reached behind her and pulled her neatly folded reusable bags from the floor, stepped out of the car and calmly put the bags into the carriage.
As soon as I got out of the car, I burst into tears.
I saw myself from that morning, and it was ghastly.
See, I never walk across the parking lot. I sprint. Inside, I never peruse the aisles or reference a list. Instead I talk to myself — usually aloud — and wonder if I need spaghetti sauce or butter, then berate myself for not knowing.
"Why don't you ever make a list?" I ask myself. "You're so stupid! Get it together, dummy!"
I never put food into the carriage, I throw it. My reusable bags are always crumbled into a disgusting wad of old receipts, expired coupons and crusty meat juice. I'm surprised the CDC hadn't come to quarantine them. When I hand my bags to the bagger, I swear he/she grimaces and asks for rubber gloves.
Every shopping trip is like an episode of Supermarket Sweep. Without the free groceries.
I relayed ALL of this to my friend: the dirty bags, the missing coupons, the expensive fruit, the disorganization, the sprinting, the talking aloud, the constant and mean self-recrimination...All the yuck that has become the norm.
"I want new reusable bags," I cried. "I don't want to live like this anymore. I don't want to be the crazy woman at the grocery store anymore." (It's been going on for years — it's why and how Cam learned to swear.)
After I got my shit together, we drove to a mall, where I got a proper wallet (I'm not kidding, she had a coupon.) I put my cards, cash and stamps in it. We stopped for lunch and a glass of wine. Then we went back to the grocery store and calmly shopped. If we turned down an aisle and saw a frazzled parent with a screaming child, we chose another aisle. (Parenting PTSD is real.)
I bought new, clean, shiny reusable bags.
At home, I unpacked the groceries, then folded the bags and put them into the trunk. I recycled all of my old bags. I also emptied the trunk of a closet's worth of sweatshirts, shoes, toys and coloring books. The kids cleaned their cleats and put them in the shoe bin. I sat down with a pen and the calendar and wrote down the next time Chuck and I are snack parents.
Later that night, after we'd had more wine and I was able to laugh about my meltdown, we set about to making dinner. I opened the cupboard and sighed.
"We did have orzo and garlic," I moaned. "We bought them for nothing. I'm so stup—"
I stopped myself.
"I'm not stupid," I said. "We already have most of the ingredients, so we can make a double batch. You can bring some home, and I can bring some to my neighbor." (My neighbor lost the use of her hand and has a hard time cooking.)
We had a feast. We ate so much we were almost sober again. Almost.
I put some in a container for my neighbor, along with bread and cookies. There was so much food to share, in fact, that I had to put it in...
a reusable bag.
And that is the story of how I didn't kill my neighbor with salmonella — and also how I learned to slow the eff down, use a proper wallet, function like a non-crazy person at the grocery store, and be nicer to myself.