It had been a particulary grueling Wednesday workday, standing for eight hours on my chubby, aching feet and racing about in well worn Sketchers as I filled prescriptions for cranky seniors in wool coats. I had an hour before I needed to retrieve my children from their dreaded After Care program at school; the one in which they refered to as Hell with teacher aides, consequently adding to my single working mommy guilt, and usually prompting me to arrive bearing various consolation prizes, such as French fries, Wendy’s chocolate frosties, or when really desperate, the latest Marvel figure.
“Hey kids, I wish I only worked part-time and could pick you up from school everyday so that you wouldn’t have to sit for two hours in a cafeteria making sock puppets, eating stale goldfish, and getting yelled at for not participating in elbow tag by wide bottomed day care workers in ill fitting yoga pants, but look! Ant-Man!!
The past month had been a bit prickly with money, being after Christmas I had a stack of bills from Amazon, Kohl’s, and JC Penney. My hours at the pharmacy had been cut and I had resorted to paying the electric bill with a credit card. It was only early January, but already I was patiently awaiting for the trickle of tax refund documents in the mail to begin. If I could make it to February we’d be home free, and possibly go back to buying the good Q-tips and two-ply toilet paper again.
All day at work I had been missing my children. As I counted out suboxone for barren eyed junkies and labeled packs of birth control for 17 year olds in Northface jackets, my periphial thoughts revolved around my sons. Their impossibly smooth foreheads. The length of their lashes. Their constantly smelly feet.
I was driving home that evening with The Edge of Seventeen blaring in my winter filthy car and a bag of hot French fries in the passenger seat when it dawned on me. The school would be serving breakfast for lunch tomorrow. Crap! This posed a huge problem for my older son, who not only found the concept of eating pancakes at 12:17 completly absurd, but also vehemently insisted the school’s sausage patties tasted like farts. Without even a lone slice of luncheon meat in the fridge this left me with little choice. A trip to ShopRite was happening.
Remember the first episode of The Walking Dead where Rick Grimes gets trapped in a tank surrounded by walkers? ShopRite is worse. And the walkers have grocery carts. And coupons. It’s the Apolypse with Can-Can specials. The plan was simple. Run in, grab salami, run the hell out.
The processed luncheon meat gods must have been with me as I discovered much to my delight, there was a section of pre sliced cold cuts sitting conveniently by the pickled olives. Not having to stand at the deli counter with an angry mob of ticket wavers put me a grand mood and I decided to spring for some provolone cheese too. My son would be thrilled. Mommy guilt would be averted. It was a win win.
Or so I thought.
I sped out of the parking lot, not having to give the finger once, and headed over to after care pickup to retrieve my little heathens. After an explosion of Mommy! Mommy! We missed you, the hugs tapered off and the conversation took a serious turn.
“Mommy, they are serving breakfast for lunch tomorrow and I hate that,” he said in a pissy tone.
I assured him I had it covered, and would be making him a delicious salami sandwich on white bread with the crusts cut off – A side of Doritos and part skim chocolate pudding on the side. The boy was happy. Until we got home and he asked for a slice.
In my quest to sprint out of that clogged grocery store playing a Musak version of Sweet Child O’ Mine I had inadvertently grabbed the hard salami. As an Italian, and lover of antipasto, I was shocked I committed such a faux pas. Surely I grabbed the Genoa. No? Where was that tangy familiar bite? That garlicy aroma? Instead I had a hunk of course sausage and a cranky son on my hands. Wails ensued.
As my son carried on as if he was on fire, I began to unravel. The strain of the day had finally caught up with me, and my feelings of failure became too overwhelming. I was a single working mother wracked with guilt, everyday wondering if I was good enough. I retreated upstairs, undressed for bed, and let the hot tears spill down my cheeks, smearing my inky black mascara. Pretty soon I was sobbing louder than my child. It had nothing to do with the salami.
There I was, in oversized pajama bottoms, a stretched out turquoise bra, my face a mess. A soft knock at the door. My two children entered, one holding a spoon, the other holding a towering mass of ice cream, whipped topping and sprinkles. There was even a cherry. They made this for me? I started smiling, then laughing. Then hugs ensued. Then more laughing.
It had nothing to do with the ice cream.