So they begin in the produce section. Quickly, the togetherness begins to deteriorate into determined shopper versus wild, giddy banshees in a battle of who can wreak the most havoc near hot house tomatoes. (The banshees win.) Large Granny Smith apples become cheek decorations, held closely to faces with a squeal of glee that is outrageously funny to children. Not so much for the mommy. "Stop that. That noise is too loud! Are we outside right now?" The apples drop into the bag, destined for home and later to be chopped into a pie. Wait, drop is not quite the right word--more like chucked into the bag. "Stop that," the mommy hisses. "They'll get bruised. Can you go get me some bananas now?" Off the mischief makers go to terrorize the bananas.
The still determined mommy finally steers the children out of the produce section only to be waylaid by the fresh, whole Dungeness crab on ice in the seafood section. The children see immediate opportunities for puppetry. The mommy sees salmonella. "Don't touch that. It's got bacteria!"
Onward to the meat counter to get the pre-ordered turkey. The mommy gives the order to the butcher. The children see this break in the action as a signal to create some more mayhem. All of a sudden, the aisle beside the ground beef and pork chops becomes a ring for a World Wrestling Federation championship. One child has the other in a headlock. Both topple to the ground again in loud peals of laughter that would have the world around them think this smackdown was the most fun they'd had in days. "What are you doing?" the mortified mommy questions. As if an answer to this question is what she really wants or even remotely believes she's going to get. Shoppers go by and give the mommy looks of questionable emotions. Sympathy in one face that says, "Oh yes, I feel you, sister. That's why I'm here by myself." Disgust in another, "Can't you keep those monkeys under control? What are you thinking allowing them to play in a supermarket the day before Thanksgiving?"
"The supermarket is NOT a playground!" the mommy points out. The children stare blankly back at her, pause for a second, and then burst into guffaws before trying to take each other down, karate-chop-style again. Knowing that she's got to do something to intervene, the mommy quickly makes a small list for each of the children. Go get this... the list says. Well now she's done it. The children bolt off in different directions in search of the "scavenger hunt" items. Their frenzy in trying to get the yogurt/orange juice/aluminum foil/cider vinegar indicates to the mommy that this is not a helpful gesture. It's become a race, and as with any race, there will be a loser. And a sore loser is fodder for more dirty looks from passing shoppers trying desperately to get their own cranberry sauce, and it has tremendous potential for being the straw that breaks the camel's back in the fragile balance between being silly and snapping into a tantrum. The children return with the items. They ask for more tasks. They want to work together this time. The mommy is pleased. She watches them as they go back again and again trying to find the exact right type of sea salt.
Finally, our little troupe of shoppers arrives at the check out counter. Various tempting candies call like sirens to the children. They are drawn to them, "Can we have one pleeeeeaaaassseeee?" "No," says the mommy, matter-of-factly, hoping that a non-response will help the desire blow over. The children become helpful, taking items out of the cart and onto the check stand conveyor belt. "Wait....no....not the glass...." cautions the mommy with a hovering hand as the 3 lb. bottle of apple juice finally makes it to the hands of the checker. "Wow, Mom, we're going to go over $300! This is a record!" one child bellows as he watches the tick, tick, tick of the register tape. The mommy slowly swipes the credit card, trying to resist the urge to hush the child. "We don't talk about money in public places, honey," she mutters under her breath.
"Would you like some help out?" asks the bagger. "Oh if only you could," thinks the mommy. "No," she says, "I think we've got it." she says. And the children hop on to the sides of the already loaded down cart. They make their way to the parking lot and the mommy spies another mom with kids entering the store. "Now stay right next to me and don't get into trouble," the mommy hears the new mom say. She passes the sympathetic look and smiles.