Midnight grocery trips have become a weekly treat for me. The kids are asleep, so I sneak out and let Andy hold the fort down. I listen to music without kazoos, I get to put my purse in the baby seat area of the cart, the store is basically deserted, and I don’t have to argue with anyone about putting $5 fucking cartoon cereal or color changing fruit roll ups in my cart.
Are there other things I would rather be doing with my alone time? Absolutely.
I’ve got books on my kindle and vibrators in my sock drawer collecting dust, not to mention that alcohol won’t drink itself.
But, being a mom is about sacrifice, and prohibition, and celibacy.
It’s in the small print on the discharge papers you signed before the hospital let you take the baby home. You know, the ones they gave you after they showed you how to clean your son’s circumcision and you threw up and had a seizure.
So last night, as I made my way slowly up and down the aisles, looking for meal ideas more appetizing to me than ordering take out, I came upon a girl in the bread aisle crying with a baby seat in her cart.
I really don’t like to talk to strangers in Walmart, and I especially don’t like comforting crying people, because that almost always leads to hugging them and I absolutely hate when people’s breath touches my neck.
I’m just not a good comforter. I’m awkward. I say things like, chin up there…little guy, and then I punch you in the arm or offer you food from my purse. It’s completely unsettling to others.
But this lady had a baby, and we were both wearing sweatpants, and I’m about to start my period soon…I don’t know, it just felt like maybe I should say something to her in case she was going to, like, kill herself next to the tortillas, which were totally on my list, and then I’d be stuck there even longer holding her baby and giving statements to cops, which I am not good at, by the way.
When I was a kid and a found a man trying to cut through a screen in my bedroom, my description of him included such gems as… I think he had a regular neck and he looked like he probably liked classic rock.
I’m sorry, I totally don’t want to bug you, but is everything ok here, orrr?
Yeah, sorry. I’m fine, I am just frustrated trying to figure something out, thanks, I’m fine.
Ok, just wanted to be sure.
As I pushed my cart passed her, and reached for the corn tortillas, I saw it.
Half covered by the baby blanket. Light green slips of paper, shaped like checks, sticking out of a yellow plastic sleeve.
I knew exactly why she was crying.
What a beautiful baby, how old?
Only 4 weeks.
She was on WIC. It’s a government program to help provide food and nutrition to women and small children who can’t necessarily afford it.
I know this, because I was on it.
I was dilated to 7 centimeters when Chrysler declared bankruptcy. I gave birth to our daughter an hour after my husband got a phone call telling him there was no work to come to anymore. We were suddenly a single income family of five with no health insurance. Who needs health insurance? Certainly not fresh out of the vagina babies.
Contrary to what politicians say, there is no fun or sense of entitlement in government aid. And they could counter, well you were the exception, something happened to you that was out of your control, and you needed it temporarily.
But, sitting in the Department of Health office with my three small children, I can promise you, I wasn’t the exception at all. Everyone in that waiting room looked like me. Down on their luck and totally humiliated to be there.
Years ago, for two what felt like forever months, I went to the store after midnight, when I knew it would be empty and the chances of me seeing someone I knew would be small. I filled my cart with milk, peanut butter, bread, cheese, eggs and juice, and then looked for the oldest, kindest looking cashier to check out.
I was the girl crying in the bread aisle.
You know, it’s so confusing when they list the things you are allowed to buy in ounces, you know? Like we have enough brain power to do math after pushing a never-sleeping baby out of our crotch.
Haha, I know, right?
Totally. I used to bring a calculator with me.
Then we looked at each other and laughed, understanding that I knew exactly what she was going through, and how much it totally sucked.
Anyways, I’ll be here for at least another hour trying to decide what to make for dinner this week, plus if I go home too soon, my husband will probably try and have sex with me or make me watch The Colbert Report, soooo, if you need, like, help figuring that whole thing out or whatever, you can totally ask me, I’ll probably be down the wine aisle.
God, thank you, I might actually have to take you up on that.
And she did.
Unfortunately when I got home, Andy was waiting for me on the couch watching Storage Wars. Fine. I’ll watch this stupid show with you, but I’m not touching your privates or your feet, I need two hands to eat my fruit roll-ups.