When your car is running on fumes and time is tight, the convenience of using the local dive grocery store outweighs the appeal of driving across town to the fancy store with pristine shelves and a smile in every aisle. Even though a conceal and carry license would come in handy as a deterrent to the sometimes scary clientele, most are harmless and make plenty of fun fashion choices to provide ample entertainment for many years to come. Given that I just wrote that little piece about looking into the story behind people’s lives, I should probably just stop right there.
But, I don’t usually stop right there and it’s time I came clean. When I grocery shop at the neighborhood dive, I am so deep in the judgement trenches scrutinizing parenting skills, wellness and dental hygiene that you need the jaws of life to get me out. You got it. I’m not always the sweet, kind person you’ve seen spewing out wisdom and life lessons to you via the keyboard.
It was on an especially busy day filled with an even higher number of colorful personalities that Karma decided to bite me in the butt and leave a mark. For all of the times I sent my friend Julie pictures of people in pajamas and stilettos, it was about time I learned my lesson.
Here’s the true story and how it all went down.
I had a neatly written list, a budget and exactly 42 minutes allotted for shopping, checking out and getting back home before I needed to retrieve Dane from football practice.
Scratch that. I just lied. I rarely write a list and if I do, it’s forgotten on the kitchen counter. The budget went out the window the moment my kids started playing sports, growing arms and legs and inviting over hungry friends. The only truth was the fact that I had very little time and an urgent need to fill the house with food to keep hungry boys moving in the right direction. I was tired, frantic and distracted.
It wasn’t until I pulled up to the check-out line with two carts worth of food jammed into one that I discovered I had no wallet.
My first reaction was panic. Where in the heck is my wallet? Did I leave it in the car? Did the creepy meth dude take it from me?
Crap. Wait. I paid bills earlier today…it’s still on the desk. Phew!
What now? I have a house with no food, two hungry, growing men (one on purpose and one not on purpose) and no money to pay for it. With not enough time to run home, I did what every rational woman in my situation would do and that was to look through my very small purse for the 50th time with the false expectation that the magic money fairy would bestow a debit card hidden in one of the clever pockets.
No wallet…but my investigation DID manifest a very unusual output. Cash. Cash! Wait, I have CASH? What woman do you know has cash?
My search provided 115$ which wasn’t nearly enough to buy the 400+ in my cart, but it gave me options. I only had 20 minutes left, so I’d need to move quickly.
And that’s when I became “that woman.” I dug deep, went into a dark zone and brought out a side of my personality I don’t typically let people see. Adrenalin took over as I sprinted to the pet food aisle and began smashing, stashing and trashing crackers, cake mix and cereal in between the dog bones and kitty litter faster and with more accuracy than a squirrel in December.
When I returned to the check-out with a noticeably lighter cart, I watched the cashier like a hawk as she rang up the Gatorade, ramen noodles and steak. Boy stuff. These were the items most critical given that I had an 8th grade football team to supply next day’s drinks for.
$114.76. Damn. I’m good.
I plunked the cash down; proudly retrieved $0.24 change and pointed my nose at the meth guy holding the bananas I’d just stashed in with the kitty litter.
I patted myself on the back, put my perfect mom smile back on and end-zone danced all the way out to car until I opened the trunk.
A trunk full of shotguns and ammunition.
Really? Who does this? People don’t do that! What happened to the sane, clever and semi-professional person who had pulled into the parking lot 35 minutes ago?
Decades of trying to hide my redneck tendencies by getting an education, marrying a good man, and landing a fancy job was just shattered by everything that had happened in the last 15 minutes. Even though the shotguns belonged to my husband and Dane, they were in MY car and would be sitting beneath the groceries that had made the final cut. I could almost feel the whale tail emerging from my jeans and a muffin top peeking out from under my frayed Lynard Skynard half-shirt.
By this time, the situation was too hilarious not to share with my warped friends. Since I had a gas card and ten minutes to spare, I stopped for fuel in order to avoid being the mom with no groceries and guns who also ran out of gas. I pumped ‘er full and texted two of my best mama friends—Julie and Susan.
Here’s what I wrote:
“Because you are my friends and won’t judge…I just became “that” person at the grocery store. Cart full of stuff–forgot my wallet. Happened to have $115 in cash. I stuffed what I couldn’t afford like a Whiskey Tango champ in the dog food aisle and made it out of there with 24 cents! I was congratulating myself until I opened the trunk to find Scott and Dane’s shot guns still there from the hunt last night. For all the times I’ve judged, I am sorry and have decided that I truly belong here…these are my people.”
They wrote me back as lovingly and supportive as I knew they’d be:
Julie: Laughing hysterically right now and would never judge because that could be me by tomorrow. I’m the woman who looks for her glasses in the refrigerator.
Susan: I’m so glad you found your people! We all need a place to belong.
Their responses instantly made smile and it was only after I drove off that I realized I’d made another bonehead mistake.
The hose was still in the gas tank attached to the pump.
The poor lady pumping gas beside me was noticeably frightened as I leaped out of the car, checked for damage and sped off before anyone else would see the crazy lady with shotguns and a gas trail following her out of the parking lot.
Feeling the need to further broadcast my imperfections, I told the story to my feisty baseball mama friends: Wendy, Miya and Louisa. We’d shared adventures in imperfection all summer, so I knew they’d appreciate another opportunity to laugh. As I waited for Dane in the parking lot, I sent the same text message I’d sent to Julie and Susan and added the special part about polluting NE Shawnee County with gas fumes.
Wendy: And this is why I love you. You always make me smile.
Miya: Bahahahah that made me laugh! At least you GOT your gas. I just paid for mine, sat at the pump and forgot to get it.
Louisa: All you need to do now is stop and pick up beer and cigarettes at the fancy liquor store across the street. That’s my favorite place to stop when I want to be hit up for money or asked out on a hot date.
Dear, sweet Louisa didn’t stop there….
Louisa: And I’m impressed that you are packing.
Me: I need to hock the guns and ammo so I can buy the cigs and beer.
Louisa: And Mad Dog 20/20…and a tattoo! You need a tattoo!
Me: Heading to “Tats R Us” as soon I pick up Dane from practice.
(Actually, I love tattoos…but, I’m way too chicken to get one!)
These are my friends and I love them so much. Who else could make such an odd, imperfect situation so much fun and memorable?
My best friend and her cute side-kick, that’s who.
Actually, I’m not even sure how to share the next part of this story. Kelsey is my best friend as well as the person who would help me hide the body I spoke of last week–Melissa would bring the shovel and drive (wreck) the get-away car. Both of these women love me for who I am—faults and bad choices alike.
Kelsey: So you hocked the guns to buy the booze?
Melissa: Did you get enough for us?
Kelsey: Such a resourceful bestie. You should use those skills when we go to Vegas next month.
Melissa: Skills? Michelle has skills? We should market her skills for gambling money.
Kelsey: We could build an empire on her skills.
Melissa: I will be the marketing manager and you can be the VP of sales.
I can’t even repeat the rest of the multi-media conversation which continued for another TWO hours…most of it without me. It didn’t take them long to leap from a mama just getting groceries for her family to building an entire, um, “service” empire.
Hubby patiently listened to my hysterical laughter and barrage of messages I kept reading to him throughout the evening. At one point, I had to scream (in extra-large font), “I’M RIGHT HERE! There will be no printing or passing out cards in Vegas.”
It was when Melissa said she got in trouble with her kids because she wouldn’t let them read our messages that we decided 3 hours on the fake Vegas business venture was probably enough.
You are probably still hoping that there will be a point to this aren’t you?
As silly as this story seems and as stupid as my mistakes were, the most happy and memorable part was the joy I shared with my mama friends. I saved those messages for days just so I could laugh and be reminded how blessed and fortunate I am to have each of these funny, intelligent and beautiful women in my life. There are a few other mamas not listed in this story who are equally as important and I have already warned them about seeing themselves in print during future posts.
Not always a girl comfortable with other girls, I have selected my lioness tribe intuitively and with love. Each of these fabulous women plays an important role in my day-to-day life as well as those of my kids–and that’s our true bond. They love my kids like their own and I feel the same way about theirs.
They make me laugh; inspire me to be a better wife, mom and friend. Not only will they not judge me…I’m pretty sure they would help me stash the groceries, too.
Coming Monday: Why I love our Soldiers
Reminder: Still looking for “Friday Favorite Things.” Drop me an e-mail at: email@example.com