So I wisely chose to hit Costco first. But I decided this, like, as I was backing out of my driveway, figuring that the Universe wouldn't hear about my change in plan until it was too late to be able to hatch a plot in time.
On the way, Lotus and I were talking about how the way one lives one's life is constantly being observed by others, and they may make decisions and choices based on what they saw. She kept coming up with situations she wanted to influence, and we talked about how she should conduct herself to help others see the merits of "Lotus' side" (yes, my seven year old is a flipping genius, as she politely pointed out this morning during science when she reminded me that nectonic animals were the ones with the ability to swim, while benthic ones could only walk. My bad).
We get to Costco, park, and I load up the three boys into the cart (side note: only one of the boys was wearing shoes). Our trips to Costco follow a very precise and rigid pattern. In fact, if you look carefully enough at the concrete floor, you can see the beginnings of grooves worn in by our feet.
The first stop is always the bakery. A mega package of tortillas thrown in, then off to the really important stuff- the bagels. The only decent bagels in Memphis. While I'm bagging up 2 dozen, an old white man in a motorized cart comes cruising up to us.
"I love bagels." He says. I'm not surprised by the fact that he's speaking to us. Old men like to talk, and old men like me. I turn to him and agree that bagels are, in fact, delightful.
"But I can't eat them anymore," he says mournfully. "I'm too fat. Bagels are no good for losing weight."
"Yeah. Luckily, I have four little ones that don't have to worry about that, so they can eat the bagels for both of us." He looks a little taken aback when I say that all these children belong to me.
"Let me tell you something," he says. I sneak a glance over my shoulder to see if there is an old lady behind me, hands on hips, and sighing in exasperation over her husband's stubborn insistence on embarrassing her every time they go out. I do not immediately spot her, so I turn back to the old man.
"Yes?" I say. I like talking to people, generally. The kids are all being well behaved, not spilling out of the cart, not grabbing things off shelves. I figure I have a moment or two.
"The Jews and the Catholics, see," I blink suddenly, trying to figure out how this sentence could possibly end in a way that would make sense for it to take place in a Costco between two complete strangers. I fail. "neither of them believe in birth control." He nods sagely.
"I'm Catholic!" I say, amiably, not defensively.
"You are? I'm Jewish!" He looks astounded and delighted by this unexpected alignment of the Universe.
"Well look at that." This is all I can think to say.
The man then goes on about a big Catholic family he used to know in Cinncinati, then tells me all about his opinions on how horrible kids are today, how the only way to raise them is to beat them, and how they don't listen. I look at my children while he says this, who are still, against all odds, maintaining heroic levels of good behavior. He follows my glance and looks at me questioningly. "How do you do it?"
"Well," I shrug helplessly. "I homeschool them. I'm around them all day, I guess." How does one answer something like that?
He then asks me where I'm from, what line of work my husband's in, and finally, takes out a business card for his locksmithing service. I take it, promise to remember him next time we lock ourselves out of the house, and tell him goodbye.
As we move on toward other parts of the store, Lotus looks at me very seriously and announces, "Mama, I think that man was an angel."
"Yes. I think he was not a man, but an angel."
I nod, and think this over as we continue shopping.
Finally finished, we head for the checkout line. The woman in front of us, a middle aged Indian woman, turns, sees us, and abandons her cart to come talk to me.
"Your children are all beautiful!" she says, in an Indian accent. I personally love Indian accents, so pretty much anything she will say to me will be met with indulgence. "Are they all yours?" I nod, still bemused by her accent. "I don't know how you do it! How do you do it?" I point out that they didn't all come at once, so I got to figure out how to manage things one child at a time. She then proceeds to ask me about the children's ages, if I find it more difficult to have them further spaced out, or closer in age, tells me about her two children (11 years apart), how difficult her pregnancies were, and how she always wanted a large family. By this time, the line has moved, the cashier has scanned and boxed up all the woman's groceries, and people are patiently waiting to move on (never underestimate the soothing power of an Indian accent).
The woman notices the gap, runs up to pay for her groceries, and continues to ask me questions as I load my groceries onto the conveyor belt. Her last question is in response to the tortillas I got at the beginning of the trip.
"Are those any good?" She asks me, with the sense that my opinion will be taken very, very seriously and will influence all her future tortilla purchases.
I shrug. "Not really," I say. "But there are a lot of them, and they're cheap, so...." She nods, takes hold of her cart, and is off.
Lotus is quiet then entire time we're being checked out. Finally, as we head our cart out of the store, she says, "Mama, I don't think that woman was an angel."
"Really?" I say, shocked, because by now I'm almost positive that angels all speak with Indian accents.
"Yeah. If she were an angel, she would have known that those tortillas were bad without ever asking."