On food buying, Part II

The second store we go to is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is approximately a stone’s throw away from Aldi, so that’s nice. I will tell you, though, I hate going to Wal-Mart. I wish I didn’t have to go there, but I’m a lazy, non-couponing mom and we are on a budget and have decided that that’s where we’ll go. Feel free to convince me otherwise in the comments.

So, Wal-Mart. Of course we drive the two seconds it takes to get there (see lazy, above). We park as close as possible and rush through the doors. I make sure to grab a cart with the child-restraint buckle (not that that’s ever stopped Sam before, but here’s hoping). I put Sam in and he immediately starts crying, I quickly produce the third and best snack: fruit snacks. I open the package only a little so it’ll take him longer to get each one out. He wrestles with the bag as I rush around the produce and deli sections of the store. They have no blue cheese and I’m pissed. What store doesn’t sell blue cheese? Oh yeah, WAL-MART. That means a trip to a THIRD store, but I won’t be doing that today, so I try not to think about it.

We make it through the bulk of our shopping mostly without incident. I have had to use my last snack, a granola thin covered in dark chocolate, which really are special Weight Watchers treats for me but which I know Sam loves. He’s covered in chocolate and we still have the frozen and dairy sections to go. I swipe at his face with a wipe, and he immediately starts crying. Wipes are so offensive to toddlers. I go to buy my Lean Cuisines and I can’t take it anymore—I let him get out of the cart. Immediately he runs down the aisle toward a large man in pink shorts who’s trying to buy some ice cream. The man pushes his cart past Sam and says, “You better be careful or you’re going to get run over.” Sam just stares at him. I pretend I’ve never seen Sam before in my life.

Time for dairy. Pink shorts guy has moved on, so I pick up Sam and put him in the cart. More crying. It has an edge to it now, a high-pitched scream I’m sure only mothers and dogs can hear. We get shredded cheese. He loves shredded cheese, and I give it to him to hold. He flings it over his shoulder like last week’s favorite stuffed animal. The crying heightens. I make soothing, shushing noises, but he ignores them. I go to grab some creamer, pausing as I look for nonfat. The belt fastened around Sam’s middle has now become a huge problem. He wrestles with it, frustrated. I know what’s coming next. He’s going to stand up and I’m going to have to carry him.

He stands up and puts his arms around my neck, crying all the while. I tell him “No!” I tell him “Sit down!” All in harsh whispers I’m sure all the rest of the shoppers can hear. Finally I hold him. We still have to get fabric softener and that’s a good four aisles away. I carry him with my left arm; push the cart with my right. When we get to the detergent aisle my left arm feels like it’s going to fall off. I put Sam down. I find my fabric softener. When I look up he’s gone. I run down the aisle screaming his name. I turn the corner and there he is, looking at diapers. “Baby,” he says, pointing. “Baby,” I say, and pick him up to put him back in the cart.

But after this brief taste of freedom he’s not having it. He stands and holds onto my neck again, screaming even louder this time. I practically run from the back of the store up to the checkout. I do self checkout at Wal-Mart because I bring my own bags and I’m kind of particular about how they’re packed and I hate to make the checkout people deal with my neuroses. Today I have a full cart, and I have no choice but to put Sam down while I scan my items. The self-checkout is empty except for the balding Asian woman that’s always there. I smile at her briefly. Sam wanders over to the register across from us to investigate it more closely. A kindly black woman peers down at him, “You better be careful, you might get your hand stuck in there.” At that moment, he hand is fully inserted into the cash holder, that black slanted thing on the bottom of the register where you can collect your money if you get cash back. I look at her and smile. “Is this your son?” she asks. I nod and decide that yes, she’s qualified to watch my child, she and Asian woman who’s seen us every other Thursday for the past six months. She smiles back.

I quickly empty the cart and Sam, thankfully, drifts back over to me. “Uppy,” he says, and I stick him in the bottom part of the cart, among the last of our groceries. He smiles, content to sit and hand me the English muffins and carrots, eager to help despite the last two hours of torture he’s put me through.

We finish unloading and I go to pay, and Sam stands up, not wanting to miss the chance to push buttons on the touch screen. He punches the pictures of fruit as I run my debit card through the machine. Nothing happens and I realize he’s cancelled my payment. I glare at him and pick him up, the brief sunbeam of civility we shared eclipsed by this inconvenience. I run my card again, fling the bags into the cart, and settle Sam firmly on my hip. And we go out to the car, harried but together. Triumphant but tired. And both relieved that we don’t have to do this again for another two weeks.