When Ari, 20, and his girlfriend got to the cottage, I greeted them in the usual way.
“Did you remember your toothbrushes?”
They hadn’t, and I tossed them two new ones I’d brought along for precisely this purpose. I’m not sure how it happens, but becoming a mother somehow triggers things lying dormant deep in your genetic coding. I knew over the course of several days up north, someone would be looking for toothbrushes, Polysporin, tweezers, socks, ping pong balls, a machete (don’t ask), marshmallows, my red shirt no my other red shirt and Cheez Whiz. I’m aware Cheez Whiz is as close to being food as a ping pong ball is, but I’m also aware that cottage traditions die hard.
When I go away on my own, I can happily — and precisely — pack seven things and be fully prepared. When I know the kids are along, my car suddenly resembles a tinker’s cart. I think the slippery slope begins with the diaper bag. When we finally get to ditch that, we just move all the junk to our purses. I don’t carry a purse, mostly so I don’t have to “can you hold this?” for everyone in proximity.
It took becoming a mother for me to appreciate just how many bases my own mother had covered. Things like Q-Tips and toilet paper and vinegar and detergent and soap and Benadryl and toothpicks and flour and Band-Aids and soup and shoelaces and cream of tartar, something I found out I needed once when I was making play dough. Mom had it.
I think mothers bolster their supplies and use crystal balls for shopping lists out of self defence: I know if I only have one of something and a kid wants it, I’ll give it to the kid. We have a running joke around here; if someone goes through a drive-thru to grab dinner, the order in the bag is inevitably short. The boys will unload everything, then peer into the empty bag and tell me the restaurant forgot my burger. Doesn’t matter if we all ordered the same thing, if it’s short, it’s mine that was left out. I don’t think I’ve had an entire meal since Christopher was out of a high chair.
As the boys need me less, I’ve transferred my pack mule skills. When I travel, everybody I’m with knows I have tissues, wetnaps, an array of drugs, earplugs, mints, licorice, apples, pens and a lot of other things, but not cream of tartar. My backpack is like some bottomless pit of things you didn’t know you’d ever need. Boy scouts can brag about being prepared, but I’m a mother. We invented it.
The kids of the house do most of the grocery shopping now, but every once in awhile I have to go and buy things like sugar or baking powder or pasta, or the hundred other things that just happen. I think of Mom every time one of them yells “where do we keep” instead of “do we have.”
One of the cats was playing with some googly eyes the other day, torn from a bag long forgotten in that kitchen drawer we all have. It was a hangover from early craft days, when we didn’t just have packages of googly eyes, we had different sizes of them. We kept them next to the glue sticks and pompoms. I made a joke on Facebook about the interesting litter box possibilities with a cat that was eating googly eyes. The comments were fairly predictable, but I laughed over one of them that said he had bags — yes bags — of googly eyes!
Must be a Dad.