Friday, July 25, 2014

saccharin pie, school supplies, and the pit of hell

I lived a rather saintly childhood. So saintly, in fact, that I'm sure my Catholic grandparents cried rivers of tears that my parents weren't raising me in the Holy Catholic Church. As one particular story goes, when I was about eight years old, we visited my grandparents and were served apple pie for dessert. My grandpa was diabetic, and apparently my grandma read the recipe backwards or something because it had about two teaspoons of apples and eight cups of saccharin in the pie. Well, it was so terrible that people were barely choking it down. My mother, always one to staunchly refuse ice cream on pie, heaped on about a quart and a half to mask the horrid taste. The next day at lunch, Grandma brought out the leftovers.

"Who wants pie?" she asked.

No one made a sound. Faces blanched, mouths went dry. Nobody made eye contact. Grandma waited expectantly. How to refuse? How to escape? 

Remember that part about me being eight years old at the time? Well, when I looked at that horrible pie I saw my  grandma's feelings and I just knew I had to have another piece. If that leftover pie were left uneaten my grandma's bruised feelings would weigh on me the rest of my life. I bravely spoke up.

"I'd like another piece of pie, please."

I still remember my parents looking at me with shock, horror, and eyes like saucers as I was passed a large piece of pie. I nobly swallowed every bite of it, believing I was some sort of Joan of Arc being led heroically to a saccharin-induced death, and inwardly sainted myself.

Eating that pie is kind of like buying school supplies. It's supposed to be wonderful, but it's just not. And when you have to go twice, it's like eating another piece of horrible pie. Don't get me wrong: I see those school supply bins show up at Wal-Mart and it's like my world is painted anew. Dreams are resurrected and dead hopes become rekindled with merit and potential simply on account of restocking our markers and glue sticks. It's a powerful thing.

Armed with a list, I took the girls to buy school supplies today. Half-Pint suddenly became a wild banshee, carrying on like she'd just downed a tub of Cool Whip and needed to NURSERIGHTNOW in order to calm down again. Meanwhile, Freckles and Scout started seizing every item they could load their tiny arms with. Binders, quarts of Germ-X, graphing paper, and calculators that cost more than we spend on groceries in a month. Then they started standing in the way of every single other patron of the store. I could feel my own tension rising. I was about to become That Mom in Wal-Mart. I swallowed my frustration as I saw the same look in every mother's face who was maneuvering the school supply aisles. I was not alone. At some point during the mayhem, my mother called me. Talk about audacity.

"Hey, Mom. Talk fast. We're in Wal-Mart and losing our minds. What's up?"

As a reward for good behavior surviving, we headed to the cereal aisle. Pandemonium hit an all time high. The level of chaos was turned up to eleven as I plunked a box of Cheerios in the cart.


We splurged by buying a box of cereal, and my kids became shrieking blobs of happy hysteria over Cheerios.

A True, Sad Story: we stopped buying cereal awhile back. First, because it costs like eight million dollars a box. Secondly, I started observing more closely how nutrition in particular was affecting Scout's attitudes and behaviors, and with cereal for breakfast, it meant she was basically eating a bowl of bankrupt first thing in the morning. So we eliminated it cold turkey. As a result, breakfast has become an all new Event at our house, which now takes about 45 minutes every day.

That being said, if you eat cereal: more power to you. Cereal is one of my favorite foods. I miss it. And we're far enough removed from it that just stepping foot past the boxes of Raisin Bran elicited clamoring that rivals Christmas morning when the girls each get a pack of new underwear that they don't have to split.

It confirmed to me how I like this idea of keeping my children's expectations of life low. You're rarely disappointed and can embrace a simple life with enthusiasm. When Cheerios become a luxury, you can only go up.

Anyway, we got home, and while the girls spread out five gazillion cap erasers on the living room floor, Lumberjack asked how the shopping trip was. I paused.

"Well, I love brand-new school supplies. But the process of obtaining them is like walking to the pit of Hell and back."

AT WHICH POINT I remembered that I'd told my mother I would take care of picking up her school supplies while she is out of town so that she may still take advantage of the 10% rebate Wal-Mart is offering to teachers this week.

"Looks like I'll be walking back to Hell tomorrow morning."

May take a piece of saccharin pie to eat on the way.