Thursday, August 10, 2006

Secret handshakes and all

"We have to stop meeting like this," I laughed.

But his cherubic face and Panama hat were a magnetic combination.

He giggled. The one-armed man he was attached to thought it was funny, too.

It occurred to me then, as I passed another similarly disabled shopper -- his charge in a ball cap, eating shell peas from the bag -- there was another club to which I cannot belong.

Fathers at the grocery store -- a kid in one arm and a grocery basket in the other -- is apparently the new black.

It's something I might never have noticed, though, had it not been for the fact that it was 8 a.m. Saturday morning and we were out of Milk. After all, my husband usually does the grocery shopping.

Where the supermarket was once the ballywick of the harried housewife, juggling bottles and sippy cups and corralling children aisle by aisle, I am noticing more and more men taking their place in line at the checkout.

As I push on the skins of melons and paw through bags of grapes for one with just the right amount, I notice the one-armed man going through pretty much the same motions with the lettuces.

We trailed each other through the store, missing each other in some aisles and meeting up in others. I wonder to myself: 'Is mom at home, enjoying a much needed break?'

I smile in line at the checkout when his items bump up against mine on the conveyor belt. I think of my own husband at home with our kidlet, and how he's probably done the very same thing with some other mommy who'd managed to sneak out of the house for some quiet, alone-time grocery gathering.

By the time I reach my car in the parking lot another one-armed man makes his way toward the market. He stops to greet the man with whom I’d been doing the grocery store shuffle just moments ago.

I started to pack my trunk with my purchases, taking extra time and trying to handle the bags gently so the rustling wouldn’t impugn my ability to eavesdrop on their conversation.

What were they talking about? I imagined they were discussing the best baby foods, sleepless nights and the-cutest-baby-in-the-world-has-changed-my-life small talk. But I couldn't make out all the words. It was as if their club had a secret vocal tone only dually sworn and initiated members could hear.

I stopped trying to hone in on the discussion, snapped the trunk closed and returned my cart before slipping into the driver's seat. I told myself I'd just be disappointed if they were talking about beer, or porn or who's head-butting who in major league sports.

They were still locked in conversation as I eased out of my parking space and drove in their direction. I couldn't contain my curiosity, though, and I lowered the window as I passed, just in case. As I passed, they just shifted the weight of their kids from one hip to the other and with a wave of their hands, they parted ways. Perhaps they have secret handshakes, too.


lildb said...

how beautifully written, your grocery store tale.

I've wondered the same thing about the daddy-shopping club. the very same thing.

and I revel in shopping alone. there is a profound joy in it tha I had not realized previous to being a mom. (or, that is, I *couldn't* have realized it, b/c I took my alone-time for granted.)

Autumn said...

yes, my hubbie is in that club. weekends are a wonderful time to watch papas with their babes everywhere. so glad it's the new black. and black never goes out of style.