I don't usually turn heads at Costco, but one memorable experience proved an exception. That was the day I found myself not only in woeful need of cat supplies, but determined to never be caught short again. I lumbered along, propelling a double-wide cart heaped with three bags of kitty litter - that's 126 pounds - and another 64 in crunchy dry food. (Hey people! It's Costco!) Yet several shoppers stop me, gaping openly to ask, "How many do you have?" (Of what? Arms? Heads? Oh, you mean cats!) I provided a truthful answer, (six!) although Dear Abby suggests a worthy deflection for too-nosy people that I might have considered, "Why do you need to know?"
Today I write of a return mission to that place, this time in pursuit of three other things - coffee filters, compliments, and observations. Two of these items were collected in abundance......
I glide into the store, fully aware that multiple pairs of eyes follow me. In my cart, snugly strapped into the kiddie seat, are one year old twin granddaughters, Ava and Angeline. They are dressed in pink from head to toe, cute as a pair of little buttons. Their five year old twin brothers, dashingly handsome Nick and Sae, amply fill the "race car" part of the cart. Yes, I know. We are a sight to behold. Grandma has staged it all and cannot wait for the party to begin.
|The boys - Halloween 2013|
But mommy is here for groceries. Lots of them. She's been told that numerous times by fellow shoppers. You see, everyone has an opinion on the spectacle that is a set of twins, doubled. "Wow! You sure have your hands full!" Sometimes mommy just can't take it any more. So, today I tell her to go ahead on her own and load up. Enjoy the luxury of solitude. My own needs are simple. I know what I came for, and even before I turn the first corner, I find it. "Oooooh! Twins! No, wait! TWO sets? OMG Ellen, come look at this!" The women squeal as if beholding the bearded lady out on a date with the half-snake man. I pull my cart alongside them and graciously introduce us all. The kids are used to it. I'm on top of the world.
We move on, but it happens again. "Do twins run in your family?" "They do now!" I smile in reply. And again. "Do they do everything together?" "No, they are individual personalities with their own strengths, interests, and friends." I check off my first observation. It is always the ladies who stop to comment. The men in the store are glued to the elbows of their wives, anxious about being in the right place when it is time to hoist a 50 pound bag of oranges into the boss lady's cart. I observe only one poor soul - a bewildered elderly gentleman - break rank to accost a bakery employee, asking if shoelaces (!) can be found near shelves that groan with Italian bread loaves.
With grandma at the wheel, the boys are in heaven. They point and I steer. "To the toy department!" we shout in unison. Three foot Darth Vader and Spiderman dolls are poked and prodded. We return again and again. Grandma is never in a hurry so there's plenty of time to examine everything. We visit the Christmas aisles and the boys stand up in the cart, mesmerized by a decoration that strikes me as bizarre. It is a disemboweled ceramic snowman with a pair of tiny trains circulating in the place his intestines ought to be. "Junk! Dust collector!" I breathe to myself, but only before one of the boys announces that if they had that snowman at home he'd sit and watch it all day and all night long. I didn't expect this observation to strike me the way it did. Has a lifetime of accumulating things misled me to a place where there is no room for the same unbridled joy a little boy discovers on the shelf of a warehouse store?
I brush that aside and move forward again, reflecting on the times my daughter has been confronted with intrusive queries about her children. What kind of a person would ask such things, I wonder. But when we turn the corner I see the answer to my question. She's shopping the pasta aisle. Stopping dead in her tracks, she demands to know if the kids are fraternal or identical twins. I think it's obvious but I answer her anyway. "Fraternal. Both sets." She absorbs this, confirms it for herself, and then brazenly asks if these grandchildren of mine are the result of In Vitro Fertilization. On paper, Dear Abby's rebuttal is genius. I've always kept it in a handy part of my brain - just in case. But I face this young woman and detect only intense interest without a shred of malice. That makes it impossible for me to offer the answer she probably deserves. "No," I reply truthfully. "They are not." Satisfied, she moves away, but not before I tell her that her own little ragamuffin of a kid is cute. That time though, I'm afraid, I did lie.
On our last revisit to Darth and the Spiderman, I am approached in a now familiar way. "Twins?" I turn around, facing a couple who are smiling affectionately. Contentedly. "We have a set of them too!" they tell me. Grandparents. Something about these people makes me wish I could reach out and group-hug them both. Their eyes are kind, not darting and curious, their comments gentle, not probing. Their own grandchildren are 12 years old, a boy and girl. They are so proud of them. I'm not offended that they don't tell me my grandchildren are cute because I live Grandma Code too. Only our own are the world's cutest and smartest. Yours and mine. We know that. No need to belabor it. Grandparenthood is far too wise and much too gracious to indulge in the ugliness of competitive comparison. We've traveled the same road to become who we are now and we celebrate one another with fondness and respect. My chat with these lovely people lasts only a moment, but when we move to part, I tell them how nice it was to talk to them. They tell me the same thing. Grandparent Code - at its finest!
We meet mommy at check out. The young clerk fakes a double take (pun intended!) and asks if we're familiar with the store's "buy one, get one" offer. Hardy har har. He thinks we've not heard that one before, but we chuckle kindly anyway and agree to be "charged" for just one kid from each pair. He means well. They all do.
We're not yet out of the parking lot before I realize that I've forgotten my coffee filters. Understandable. But my observations about human behavior - especially those of my own - have come home with me to stay!