As a child I was utterly convinced that one day I’d be abandoned in some grocery store, thereby having to fend for myself for the rest of my life. I was just sure that if I let my mother out of my sight then she’d make a dash for the car, high tailing it home and hoping that I wouldn’t remember where we lived. Being the proactive type, I would start forming plans for such an incident, making sure I knew the closest exit, remembering where we parked, and if worse came to worse I’d have a plan for how I could get home, the checker lady looks really nice so maybe she’ll give me a lift, I’d think to myself.
I didn’t dawdle like most kids; I am most certainly not a dawdler (and have no plans of ever becoming one). My mother, on the other hand, is queen of all dawdlers and she has perfected this to an exceptional art form. One would think that it would be very easy to keep up with a dawdler, but in fact, by definition these individuals are unpredictable because, truth be told, they have no idea where they are going from moment to moment. On these trips to the local grocery store my mother would dawdle from one isle to the next, usually circling back a time or two in a haphazard fashion. She’d stop to talk to the old lady who was buying baked beans or fumble through her large leather braided purse for a chick-let or she’d remember she’d left a return item in the car and then dash off to get it. This is when I’d have to be alert. In my little mind, she may run out to the car to get the said item and then change her mind and decide to just buzz on home, calling it a day after all these tiring chores, leaving me on isle eight with the old lady and her can of baked beans.
One clever trick I used to ensure I wouldn’t be left at the store during these trips is that I’d stay in the car while my mother “ran in real quick.” This had its advantages and disadvantages. You see, my mother never did anything “real quick” and so I came to hate the idea of trailing behind her for 75 minutes while she visited each and every isle in the store and chatted with each and every person that had thought they could just run into the store “real quick.” What these innocent and unassuming people didn’t count on when they ran into Food Fair to pick up a loaf of bread was that they’d be running into my mother and that she wanted to talk. I’d see the panic in their eyes when they unknowingly sprinted for the bread and then turned around to see my mother saddling up next to them with a smile and all the time in the world to chat.
Some of the town folks had gotten quite accustomed to my mother’s leisurely ways and had figured out how to cut it short, “Oh Melanie, I’d love to stop and talk, but I’ve just run in for this bread and I’ve got to get it home right now cause the boys are waiting. They’re real hungry, you see.”
Now, if this person hadn’t thought this out well enough then they may still get trapped because there’s something else my mother had perfected the art of and that’s reassigning other people’s agendas. “Well, I totally understand that,” my mother would begin. “You do not ever want to keep hungry boys waiting. Would you do me a favor and tell ‘em I say ‘hi.’”
Hoping that compliance would end the conversation, the person would agree, nodding their head in a rushed manner. Their silence was the window mother needed and the poor soul wouldn’t realize it until 15 minutes later when they were still nodding their head and smashing their loaf of bread in their clenched hand. “I see there you’re buying the boys whole wheat bread. That’s so smart of you. Most people eat that white bread crap and you know there is absolutely no nutritional value in it. I personally think whole wheat taste better and my kids like it too, but they do not really have a choice because they eat what I buy and that’s that.” And so the conversation would go, or rather my mother’s monologue, because she rarely had much of a conversation with anyone.
And so if I wanted to spare my sanity a little, I’d just opt to hang in the car while mom did her grocery shopping. My rationale was that although she might forget me at the store, there was no way she was going to forget the car. I knew if I just stayed in the car then I’d be sure to see her again and she’d take me back home in a couple of hours so I could resume watching the Andy Griffin show. However, there were a few flaws in this cunning plan. As you might have been able to gander, I was an exceptionally fearful child and I whole heartedly believed that if I wasn’t abandoned in a store then it was very likely that I’d be stolen out of a car by some stranger who had always wanted a little blond haired, blue eyed girl like me. I’d eye everyone as they pulled into the parking lot or strolled out of the store to decide if I should duck under the seat or if they looked clean enough so I could remain sitting straight up.Mom would usually leave the keys in the car so I could roll the windows down as I saw fit, but this was ridiculous for two reasons. The first is now she’s just left some creep the perfect opportunity to steal her kid and she’s given them a get-a-way device. The second reason it was absurd was that I wasn’t ever going to roll the windows down, not even the slightest little crack. Was she insane? Leaving the windows down ensured that the raving lunatic who was out to kidnap me and steal our vehicle had easy access. I at least had to make it difficult for him by keeping the windows up and the doors locked. This line of logic I carried out each and every time with diligence which usually proved to be quite uncomfortable since I grew up in Texas and most of these trips were during the summer months when I was out of school. When people stopped to stare at me with their curious little eyes, I thought it was because they were trying to figure out how to best break into the car. I never thought it was because they were thinking, Look at that poor little red faced girl. Who would leave her all alone in a closed up car in 90 degree weather?