Summer Potatoes

Twice today, walking, living, in this snow globe, winter-heavy city, someone said summer, wished summer, longed for summer.

I laughed each time. Light, dismissive laugh. Laughed to forget, really, because, of course, wishing for summer now will only make winter seem to drag longer, days of hair-whipping wind, hand-stinging cold extending endlessly.

Don’t say that, I admonished, grinning. Then summer will never come!

But the words were said and my mind wandered to thoughts of hot pavement, skyscrapers reflecting heat, walking down Oak to the beachfront underpass, the crowded sand.

Perfect, hot, sunny, warm, beautiful summer.

It’ll be here soon enough, and I don’t mind the cold, really. I tell myself.

Snow is an adventure. Snow is fun.


But there’s another moment, a summer memory, that’s too real to forget. I can push Oak Street Beach, sundresses and flip-flops, sunglasses tracing a tan around my nose, from my mind. But reality, the ins and outs, ups and downs of jagged emotions and the fast-paced chaos of real life? Well, that is harder to forget.

Late May, it’s sunny, warm, outside and pleasantly hot inside the car, parked where it is in the tree-less, shade-less parking lot.

Inside, it’s the Mother and I, trailing three little ones through the aisles of the food market.

Jaid is there, white polo shirt, khaki shorts. He’s sitting in the seat of the cart I push, his strong, narrow arms stretching at lightening speed between the food in the back of the cart, towards me, reaching for aisles, displays, food containers.

Behind us, staying out of arm’s reach, yet worried to dawdle, to remain, too far behind, the girls each clasp a bundle of plastic bags in their already-tanned hands.

Ahead, around the corner, across the aisle, the Mother squeezes avocados, weighs peaches in her hands. Decision made, she directs the girly pair; ten apples, four mangoes, a couple avocados. They select, bag, tie.

I’m helping, too, but then JJ’s upside down in the cart, back arched over the collapsible child seat, reaching for food, groceries, anything within his curious, active, little boy reach.

It’s stop and go, through those grocery aisles. All three- 8, 6, 3- are tired, whining, and I’m on shushing autopilot, offering a half-hearted, ill-timed “shhh” in response to every complaint of too heavy, too much, too tired, too hungry, too he tried to hit me.

We’re making progress, moving forward, inching towards the cashier, when the child in front of me is too fast, too strong. Straining against the faded straps of the cart’s child seat, he wraps his fingers around the corner of a bag of potatoes. Brown and solid, he pulls those potatoes out of the bottom of the cart, sends the bag careering through the air before I have time to think, time to respond.

Of course, there’s a child not far behind us, and the potatoes connect with her stomach, bouncing to the ground as she leans over, clasping miniature hands over her white shirted belly.

She doesn’t care, of course, that he didn’t mean to hit her. That the throw wasn’t that strong, or that there were only a few potatoes in the bag. She still got hit, and he’s there in the cart, moving- always, always moving- to get somewhere, to do, touch, feel something else.

In front of us, in search of the last items on the list, the Mother hears the yells, the soft thud of potatoes hitting little body, then the concrete floor, and she’s comforting the girl, admonishing the boy, in a moment. I’m fighting a losing battle, now. He can reach the other contents of the cart and he knows it. He’s alive and so very energized, and I’m wordless, devoid of solutions.

Take him to the car, she says, handing me her car keys.

So I do. I pull that sweet, moving, bundle of wild out of the cart straps, settle him on my hip. He doesn’t fight being there, being held, and out in the parking lot, I sit in the driver’s seat, he sits buckled into the pink flower carseat behind me. He’s tired, of course, and the car is safe, familiar, and he leans his head against the seat, holds loosely to the Matchbox car I found on the car floor earlier.

The girls, the Mother, are not much longer in the store. Soon, the sliding door rolls away to reveal the Mother, skirt blowing in the early summer breeze, the little ones on either side of her, clutching the snacks they chose for the ride home.

But before they finish, before we’re unpacking cart, loading car, I sit in the car with the boy child in the calm. I’ve rolled the windows down, a little, and the sounds of grocery stores, parking lots, and people are muted, gentle, easy, in the warm air. Overhead, through the tinted windshield, small, soft white clouds float across the pale blue sky, only occasionally obscuring the sun ever so little, on that summer afternoon.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Grandma S.
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 12:38:03

    And that, my dears, is why I never took my sons grocery shopping.


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