A very middle class…

…sort of afternoon.

Let me start by saying that I have an extreme disdain for A Southern Season on the weekend.  For the years that I worked at the hospital, I was able to skitter over to A Southern Season during lunch, snap up what was necessary and get the fuck out without having to deal with the doddering, old people trawling for free samples.  I was able to avoid overhearing the annoying conversations between Bitsy and Tweety about their quilted handbags and their grandchildren.  I didn’t have to dig down deep within myself to find the restraint necessary to avoid grabbing a Wüsthof knife and driving it through the heart of a Junior League member lamenting about how hard it is to find good help these days.  Also, I didn’t have to play dodge the portable oxygen tank.  As I have said previously, that is the must have accessory for a majority of the clientele.

I have long maintained that there should be certain hours set aside for those of us who need to shop for actual groceries so we can get in and out without any irritation.  Call me bougie all you want but there are certain food stuffs that I can only get there or I can pay 50 trillion dollars in shipping to some weird internet shop specializing in French salami and Kalles kaviar (not that I would dare eat that shit).  Also, blame my father for this.  He was the one who foisted this upon me.  I was perfectly fine with a diet of Pop-Tarts and scorched meat (my stepfather, my lovely, learned stepfather…my wonderful stepfather who should not be permitted to touch meat at all) until I moved in with my father.  Then my life turned into “eat like a proper European and like it or starve.”  Also, have some wine with dinner…even if you’re only 9 (ok…even if you’re only 17).

On Christmas, I made a horrible discovery.  We had one jar of lingonsylt (lingon berries) remaining.  There is an Ikea in Charlotte but it’s an Ikea…in Charlotte.  People go there as a tourist destination.  Anyone who needs to get in, get lingonsylt and get the fuck out does not have the time to waste driving two hours only to deal with drop-jawed morons stumbling and bumbling through a low grade furniture store, massacring the names of Scandinavian towns.  Also, there are no meetings for work scheduled in Charlotte in the near future so I have no actual reason to go to Charlotte.  Further complicating my life is the obliteration of Ericsson’s footprint in RTP (thank goodness I left Ericsson for the current job).  Finding Swedish anything at the regular grocery store is no longer a possibility.  No more Ballerina cookies.  No more Felix anything.  My choices for acquiring Swedish foods are now limited to Ikea, the internet, begging for parcels from my friends or going to A Southern Season (or ASS as my husband calls it).  I make köttbullar (Swedish meatballs or shitballs, if you’re my husband) often enough that we must have a reasonable inventory of lingonsylt.  Köttbullar without lingonsylt is like college without beer – why bother?

So, I break the news that Milkface is going to have to run a marginally uninteresting errand with Mommy today.  He was in his fort in the living room and stayed silent in hope that I would forget that I had a child.  I lured him out with the promise of a handsome reward/threat of death.  It never ceases to amaze me that the child who is never tired always seems to come down with chronic fatigue syndrome whenever it’s time to get dressed to run an errand.  I manage to get his limp body into clothes, bundle him up and stuff him in the car.  Then he forces me to listen to Avril Latrine (yeah…Avril Latrine.  When you have to listen to Avril Lavigne over and over and over again until your ears bleed, she becomes Avril Latrine.  And believe me, this is one time I find myself wishing my hearing impairment is way worse than it actually is, too.) ½ way up I-40.  The child, he’s good.  He’s already mastered the art of manipulation from his conniving, scheming and evil mother.

We get to ASS, walk through the doors and Milky inhales.  He immediately recognizes the smell of happiness.  The smell that brings much joy and harmony to the house.  The smell that represents comfort, sanity and security because Mommy isn’t losing her shit over something inconsequential:  coffee.  Milky is intrigued.  Milky is comforted.  Milky is willing to push the cart and cooperate.  We head over to the jam aisle and start our search for lingonsylt.  There were four jars.  We scooped up three.  I always feel guilty taking the entire stock of whatever in the event that there is someone else who is having an emergency.  I would hate to be the asshole that caused distress because I took everything (see, I am considerate!).  Then I noticed the rows and rows of French jams Dock and I fell in love with while on one of our trench hiking holidays so I placed a few of those in the cart.  After that – marmalade because my father loves marmalade.  Examining the cart, I’m thinking we have the equivalent of Milky’s freshman year of college tuition in jam and decide it’s time to move along.  But where to next?  We satisfied the need:  lingonsylt.  We obtained the want:  jam.  Oooooh…bread!  Must have bread for all this glorious jam.  To the bakery, we go.  And now, my ambivalent sloth of a child is getting into the experience.  After a brief discussion, we decide brioche would be better than several croissant so we get a loaf of that.  I think that may have cost more than my boots.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Milky drifting towards the left to the case with the desserts.  Of course.  There are two King cakes in the case and Milky loves anything that is sparkly and purple.  The whining begins in earnest.  Lower lip protrudes, eyes well with crocodile tears but I manage to convince him to hold off for a minute.  What Milky doesn’t realize is that ASS has a candy section that is something to behold.  And this is where things get a little weird and where I fail to understand how the brain of a five year old functions at times because five year olds glom on to some really weird shit.

On our way to candy land, we cruise by my mother’s concept of heaven:  cookware and cutlery.  Rows upon rows of knives (which she may or may not wield when I arrive home with another tattoo; not unlike the first time I came home with a tattoo when she waved a chef’s knife at me and was certainly not smiling) twinkling beneath the lights strategically placed to showcase the wares.  Shelf upon shelf of Le Creuset cookware and bakeware.  Milkface notes the lack of purple cookware and wonders if Bubbe can do anything about that (note to mom:  I’m totally serious).  A table display of Scanpans are taunting me.  Then my weird kid fixates on a pie bird.  Of course he reaches for it (what five year old wouldn’t grab something fragile) and demands to know what it is, what it does and, of course, can he have it.  I explain why pie birds are used and that Mommy isn’t big on baking pies but this is irrelevant.  Milky now wants a pie bird.  Oh…and the pie bird should be made by Le Creuset (properly pronounced) and preferably red or purple (because purple is his favorite color and red is the favorite color of his bestie).  Somehow, I’m now finding myself in a lamentation reserved for an Op/Ed piece in The Guardian about Middle Class Shame.  This is all very confusing.  Especially given the fact that I look like something that has been pulled out of a shower drain and dressed in a Ponyville Public Library shirt, jeans and ratty cowgirl boots.

I finally manage to lure the child to the candy section and watch what every parent dreams of, even if they’re unwilling to admit it, a face awash in joy at the sight of endless candy and impending tooth decay.  As is Milky’s wont, he stands still and processes all that he sees before diving in.  Then the “May I have…” begins.  At first, I restrain him much to his chagrin.  I don’t want him loading up the cart with the first thing he sees or stuff he can get anywhere (supply chain toady represent – we do not buy M&Ms at an exorbitant markup).  I want him to explore a bit.  I want him to have the full kid-in-the-candy-store experience.  We cruise the aisles looking at all the things.  He recognizes the goodies Uncle Magnus brings him from Sweden.  He sees lollipops with insects in them.  Then he finds the good stuff…the stuff of infinite possibilities…the bulk candy:  jelly beans, chocolate of endless varieties, gummy this and gummy that, licorice, gumballs, jawbreakers.  Then it’s time to really blow his mind, I put on one of those non-latex gloves, grab a handful of empty bags and tell him he can have whatever he wants.  Who has two thumbs and is mom of the year?  This train wreck.  And load up the bags we did.  The staff smiled.  The other patrons sneered.  Let them.  My kid and I were having a moment, dammit.

Even after we had cleaned out a good bit of the gummy inventory, Milky still had his mind on the bakery and the pie bird.  And, because I have done a stellar job of spoiling the child rotten, I suspected that there was going to be an addition to what was already in the cart.  I managed to distract Milkface from the pie bird by taunting him with stinky cheese.  Then we negotiated a deal – there would be no King cake coming home (it was large, it’s not yet Mardi Gras and I don’t care for holiday creep as it is) but Milky could have petit fours or an individual cake.  He chose sponge cake with strawberry mousse.  And somewhere, the bougie brigade agreed to overlook the fromage foul, grant me a pass on the pile of gummy goodness in the cart and allow me to keep my tastefully muted membership card granting me access to the most exclusive of food and beverage markets provided Milkface partake of ethically sourced foie gras by the end of February.

Once that was all said and done, we left ASS and walked through the remaining shops of University Mall (all four of them – maybe five?) where Milky was additionally rewarded with his first pieces of art glass because a cultured lad is never young enough to start building his own collection.  He selected a plane, a turtle, a heart and an octopus (or maybe I chose that for myself?).

And as I sit here, with Scooby Doo (might I say – I really dislike Scooby Doo) in the background, I’m having a hard time figuring out if today is 2015 and Milky’s childhood or if it’s 1976 and my childhood.  My parents saw nothing wrong with taking me to a gourmet grocery store and feeding me food that grown-ups eat.  They didn’t see anything wrong with allowing an outrageous indulgence now and then.  If there was something random and weird that I wanted and I was well behaved, I could, conceivably, have been rewarded with the random and weird object.  Today, it appears that I gave Milky a little of what was given to me – a little bit of the weird, magical, offbeat childhood that I had that a lot of kids didn’t necessarily experience.  While I may make fun of myself for the excess, I’m also quite proud to pass along the some of the kookiness.  And, maybe there will come a day when Milky is flying solo with a kid of his own, doing the same nonsensical, silly things while thinking about the day that his goofball of a mom did the same with him.  Parenting may feel like a series of really long and really frustrating days but the reality of the situation is that it is a very narrow allocation of time.  The ultimate goal is to raise kids to be self-sufficient and self-actualized adults.  But…who is to say that the process can’t be fun, too?