It was the best of days; it was the worst of days.
I should have known better, but I thought I had a handle on my two-year-old daughter. Back then, Eva was known for commenting on anything or anyone that crossed her path with wickedly accurate one-liners that stung as only a two-year-old’s observations can. I had been the recipient of several of these barbs, and they left me speechless and out of sorts for an hour or so after. What had I given birth to? Would it ever stop? If I left her alone with my husband for more than a few hours, I’d return home to find him slightly goggle-eyed, like Wile E. Coyote the instant before one of his experimental mishaps went awry. I somehow couldn’t summon sympathy, though – I’d been there. Oh, yes, I knew what it felt like.
The day in question started out fine – Eva behaved as well as could be expected, so I felt confident taking her and her four-year-old brother grocery shopping with me. Both of them wanted to ride in one of those carts that has a wacky race car attached to the front. They’re cumbersome, and fully loaded, they’re almost impossible to corner, but hey – they keep the kids happy and at a level where the only thing they can haul off the shelf weighs more than they do.
So far, so good.
The problem arose at the checkout. Ahead of us was an elderly lady who was slowly removing a few items from a hand-held shopping basket. How I envied the ease with which she carried out this transaction! No one snatching at magazines! No requests for candy bars! Heck, she could just grab six of them off the shelf if she wanted to, tossing them on the conveyor belt with reckless abandon. Look at me! I can buy whatever I want!
My day would come. For the time being, I resigned myself to unloading the cart, answering the innumerable questions that came with it – When can we have that? How come she got to pick out something and I didn’t? When are we going home?
I put the last of my items on the conveyor belt, just as the cashier finished with the elderly lady’s order.
That’s when Eva struck.
I heard beep! Beep! Beep! from the shopping cart (yes, they have horns) and Eva leaned out her side of the cart and called in a loud voice:
“C’mon, granny, let’s get it rolling!”
If the shopping cart was a lumbering behemoth before this, I now envisioned it roaring through the store, cutting a swath through unsuspecting shoppers as I hurtled toward the finish line, a distant speck somewhere in the parking lot.
But the lady behind me blocked any escape. I was stuck, as stuck as I’d ever been in a long time. Should I apologize? Pretend it didn’t happen? I froze, waiting.
If she had heard Eva’s order, the elderly lady did nothing. Calmly, she picked up her grocery bag and grabbed her handbag with the other hand. I vacillated between wondering if she was incredibly polite or extremely deaf. Either way, I heard the universe exhale, just a notch, and the cashier started running my groceries over the scanner.
Eva acted like nothing was wrong, and I vowed that next time, my husband could do the grocery shopping. I promised myself, I vowed, I’d sign an oath in blood that I wouldn’t care if he returned home laden with potato chips, frozen pizzas and a lifetime supply of root beer. We could pour the stuff on our cereal for all I cared, but next time, he was doing the shopping.