Jewish World Review April 18, 2002 / 7 Iyar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | I'm walking through the automatic doors at the local grocery store. After selecting a cart, I place my 3-year-old in the child seat and instruct my 5-year-old to hold on to the side of the cart. I have my 9-year-old grab another cart (yes, another one) and place my 8-year-old in front of the caravan, designated as today's leader. And we're off...we're grocery shopping.
Things are going about as well as can be expected. I am repeating the word "No" every three or four seconds and explaining what a star fruit is as we meander through the produce aisles. I am no longer fazed by the many glances I get as I navigate this caravan around the watermelon display, but I can see people smirk when I carefully count out 10 or 12 pears, and then do the same with apples, oranges and so on.
Finally, the silence of the produce section is broken with the question I get everywhere I go. An older lady comes up to me with a kindly smile, but is obviously confused.
"Are they all yours?" she asks.
Tempted to reply, "No, this one I kidnapped, and this one I found outside on the curb..." I simply smile, in my most pleasant of fake grins, "Yes, they are all mine."
Now it's become a party. We are the sideshow attraction in the produce aisle. People are coming up to us and asking all kinds of questions.
"Are those two twins?"(One is five and one is three...) The size difference between the two is obvious ... I want to say that yes, they are twins and we are just experimenting by feeding one 50 percent less. I want to say a lot of things, but I don't. I just smile and say, "No, they're not."
I am imagining now that the store manager has printed up notices to accompany the coupon flier... "Sunday!, Sunday!, Sunday! See the amazing woman who has born more than the standard 2.2 children required by the FDA! Weekly appearance in the produce section!"
"You certainly have your hands full," they say.
Yeah, maybe I do a little, but I don't think this is the question most people want to ask. I think they want to ask, "Why do you have so many children?" or "How do you keep track of them all?" or perhaps even "Did you ever lose one and not notice?" or "Haven't you ever heard of the pill?"
And the answers are not nearly as interesting as the questions, or the curiosity behind them. I have this many children because my family always felt like someone else was missing. As if there was a space at the dinner table that someone hadn't filled yet.
I keep track of them all the same disorganized way I keep track of anything else, with some scribblings in my datebook and a few notes on the refrigerator and a lot of filing away in the underused portions of my brain.
Knock wood, I haven't lost one yet. Although, escape artist Alex, who is 5, recently came close to being first. The flashiness of a lawn tractor at a local hardware store caught his fancy and while I was debating with Liam, who is 3, the correct application methods for pesticides on other shoppers, he was gone. Nightmare waiting to happen. My husband immediately deployed a search and rescue operation worthy of the National Guard and using only our own children. Sweeping aisles methodically, we came across the wayward boy getting ready to mow down the houseplants in aisle 12.
I won't mention the couple of times I have had a "late" meeting and just couldn't pick up a child at a friends house at the scheduled time. We won't mention it because I actually forgot that I was to pick up said child, and savored twenty minutes in the library by myself...leading only to oceans of guilt after walking through the front door to a chorus of "Where's Lydia?"
After the Q & A is finally over, we are free to resume our normal shopping.
Until I get to the check out counter. Looking at all of the stuff go by on
the conveyor belt, the boy bagging the groceries looks up at me says,
03/25/02: Thrust into a Barbie dreamland