That Kind of Mom

Yesterday was hot.

It was my day off, so I sat in the air conditioning too long and watched Netflix with Nick. Since Nick got a job, I've been hanging out and watching TV with him before he leaves. Maybe I felt him slipping, slipping away.

We'd been chatting a little, mostly during commercials. I guess I wasn't poison ivy after all. My boy was actually hanging out with me a little. He's growing up. Maybe he felt himself slipping, slipping away.

House's doctors got busy resuscitating his patient while he watched. What an ass. I loved House, but there was no way an addicted ass like him would be allowed to remain in a position like his. Totally drawn into that same story, over and over. House, the hero. House, the maverick.

I have always loved Netflix too much. Nick had watched all of the episodes of House and was in his second run through. The problem with House was that I kept getting drawn in. I could almost believe that Hugh Laurie was an ugly American doctor. I needed to get moving. I really needed to get some stuff done on my day off. I thought that maybe it would work if I said it out loud.

"I really need to get going, groceries, dog walking, the library. Ugh. Too much to do."

I could almost feel the heat trying to seep into the windows to get to us.

"Mom," Nick said after a long pause. House had solved another medical mystery and, during the countdown, before the next episode started automatically, he said, "If you want, you can come get your groceries at the store."

Nick bags groceries at Safeway. After his first day, he said he liked bagging groceries. My dad used to bag groceries when he was in college.

"Sure," I said slowly. I wasn't really sure. I might embarrass him. "That's a good idea. I could see you at work."

His words opened a door in me, a possibility I hadn't considered.

Nick has a job now. I kept saying that in my head. Nick has a job. It was a big step for him and I was already pining for the days when he was home too much. Ridiculous, I knew. Just a few weeks ago, I kept telling him to go do something, to get up and go do something, anything. But suddenly he had a job and I was reluctant to ask myself, 'What do I do now?'

I had stuff to do. I really did. I needed to weed the yard, but it was too hot. I needed to delete stupid photos from my computer that I was never going to look at again, but it was too cold next to the air conditioner. The dog needed a walk. The dog really needed a walk.

So yesterday, after Nick left for work and I reluctantly turned off Netflix, I went on this long dusty and sweaty walk at the dog park. I tried to stay in the shade. I did. But to walk anywhere, you had to walk in the sun. I wore a black shirt. Why the hell did I wear a black shirt when it was that fucking hot? By the time I got back to the car, I had a thick layer of sweat all over me. It threatened to drip. One globule of sweat wobbled at each elbow. My scalp beaded with sweat. I hated when my head was sweaty under my hair, when the bottom band of my bra felt like it had been dipped in the pool, when I didn't need to lift an arm and sniff to know I reeked. As I walked, dust had lifted up so that I had a dirt tan on my feet and ankles. Teddy might have been happy after his walk, but I was hot and filthy.

When I finally got us into the roasting car and started the air conditioner, I looked into the rearview and I saw that the crazy curl I have on top of my head stood straight up. I pushed it down, but it popped back up, tilting at a jaunty angle. Great.

I drove home with the air conditioner blasting. Teddy lounged across the back seat. I absolutely had to take him home first before going to the grocery store. I hated those days, the ones so hot that I couldn't leave the dog in the car for five minutes, let alone an hour.

When we pulled up the driveway and got out, I didn't even bother to go inside the house. I just unlocked and opened the door so Teddy could go in. I felt the wave of cool air hit me. I knew if I walked into the cool foyer and up the stairs, I'd be asleep on the couch before House's new patient could pass out in a pool of his own vomit.

So then, I got back into my car and headed over to Nick's grocery store, a little further than I usually go. I was going to shop where Nick worked. I grinned.

The air conditioner and my audiobook, 'On the Move' by Oliver Sacks, did their magic. I was cooled off and thoroughly involved in Sack's story about the next brain-damaged patient.

I found a cart in the parking lot and brought it back inside so Nick wouldn't have to. Then, as I felt the wave of cool air hit me in the produce section, a smile came over my face again.

I realized that I could take a picture of Nick at his first real job without him even knowing. So, I hid behind the floral department and stuck my hand out after a customer got out of the picture. Then, I clicked a picture of Nick as he leaned forward to grab something the cashier had pushed his way. He didn't even know I was there. He didn't need to know yet, did he?

I took two more pictures, then went about my business of shopping for stuff we might need, food to feed Nick when he got home from work, his favorite stuff.

People kept smiling at me.

Then, I realized I had a grin on my face. I kept thinking about the irony of a seventeen-year-old boy working in a grocery store while his mom shopped for his favorite food there.

It was a nice store. The produce was good. Stuff was fairly well organized. The fish even looked decent. I didn't buy any fish. I filled my little cart, over-filled it actually. I kept going half way down the aisles and turning around rather than come out at the cashier end so that I could watch Nick furtively as he worked. I didn't take any more pictures. I knew I couldn't use them on Facebook or Twitter without Nick complaining, so the three crappy ones I got at the beginning were enough. I stood half way down an aisle and sent one of the pictures to Mike so he could see our boy at work. The guy I blocked while I texted my picture grinned back at me, shaking his head, after I apologized for standing in the middle of the aisle.

Finally, I'd gone halfway up and back down all the aisles and headed over to Nick's row. I wanted him to bag my groceries. I wanted to see him at work, up close and personal.

It was an express lane, fifteen items or less. Fewer, I thought, grinning. It should be 'fewer.'

Nick looked up and then squeezed his eyes shut and looked down at his shoes.

There I stood, still sweat-encrusted, dust-grimed, the single curl springing off the top of my forehead, grinning at him with a cart full of groceries in the express checkout lane.

Yeah, I am that mom. I am. I can't help it.

Thank you for listening, jules