All I needed was a dozen eggs, but when I got inside the grocery store, I remembered my husband had used all the ketchup the night before, so I figured I should probably go ahead and get ketchup, too.
He puts ketchup on everything. I’d heard the familiar schlerbt-squish coming from the kitchen and came around the corner to find him squirting ketchup on my grandmother’s homemade macaroni and cheese recipe explaining, “Patrick Mahomes eats his macaroni like this, and I’ve always wanted to try it.” Vigorously shaking the last bit of ketchup out of the squirt bottle, he said, “Can you put ketchup on the grocery list?” Of course, I can.
Inside the store, I grabbed a basket, adjusted my mask which was already fogging my glasses, and headed to the condiment aisle with ketchup on my mind. On my way to ketchup, I noticed a new pickle. Actually, a Wickle. It was the label that caught my eye. I’m a sucker for a good marketing campaign, and I love an interesting label.
Ketchup and Wickles in my basket, I blindly made my way to the cashier, glasses completely fogged. I paid. Got all the way outside. Took off my mask. Unlocked the car and slid into the driver’s seat swinging the plastic shopping bag onto the passenger’s seat. That’s when it hit me. I’d forgotten the eggs.
Typically, this kind of thing wouldn’t bother me. But this was one more in a string of irritants that day. That morning, I took a load of clothes out of the dryer to find my AirPods at the bottom of the pile. I guess I’d put them in the pocket of my jeans and inadvertently washed and dried them. Mid-morning, I was on a conference call when our Wi-Fi fritzed out in the middle of an important presentation. That evening, I’d gotten elbow deep in making chocolate chip cookies when I pulled an empty egg carton out of the refrigerator. “Aw, guys. C’mon! Who put the empty egg carton back in the fridge?” I asked no one because everybody else was in the driveway playing basketball in the last of the summer twilight.
If I hadn’t already gotten the mixing bowls dirty, I’d have scrapped the cookies. But I wanted them for myself as much as I wanted to share them. So, I got back out of the car. Slammed the car door. Wrapped the elastic of my mask around my ears and walked inside the grocery store again.
I noticed her as I stomped down the cereal aisle. A tiny frame,medium-height, young mother with soft brown hair pulled up in a messy bun on top of her head. She had a baby in one of those baby slings around her waist. A little boy, who couldn’t have been more than three, walked closely beside her, his still baby-chubby left hand clutching a small, green, plastic brontosaurus.
Any other day, I might not have noticed them, but there was something familiar about her tired, kind eyes. That had been me just a few short years ago. Shaking the memory, I walked into the store, straight back to the dairy section. I wasn’t getting sidetracked this time.
It took a minute to find a carton without a broken egg inside. Then, back down the cereal aisle intent on the register. It must’ve been the familiar green color that caught my eye, standing out conspicuously next to the yellow of the Cheerios boxes lined up so neatly in a row. The green dinosaur. The little guy had put it down and forgotten it.
I picked it up. It felt familiar in my hands. I was almost sprinting down the main aisle now. Where were they? Couldn’t have gotten far. I found them on the pasta aisle and slowed down as I walked toward them.
The Mama was saying in a soft voice, “Rotini is the one that starts with an R. Do you see it?” He was busy helping. “Hey buddy,” I called out as I held out the dinosaur. He shouted in surprise, “HARRY! That’s Harry!”
“I found him by the Cheerios,” I explained to his Mama with what felt like the first smile of the day spreading across my face.
“What do you say, Noah?” She put her hand on top of his little brown head. “Thank you, Miss Lady,” he grinned up at me. I laughed out loud.
“I like your shirt,” I told her, still smiling. It was a Christian t-shirt, soft blue, and complimented her crystal-clear blue eyes. In white, loopy cursive was written Grateful and Thankful. She smiled, “Thanks. It’s a good reminder ‘cause I really am.”
As I walked to my car, I knew I needed it, too. The reminder. Grateful and Thankful. ‘Cause I really, really am.