Happily Ever

Can my happy ending include flowers and unicorns?

An essay written last week and published today.

We ventured out into the world yesterday. It was all white frosting and grey skies. Zuzu stopped every few minutes to eat the snow along the way. It was adorable when she gobbled up a mouthful of the fresh stuff off of our tree. Less so when she consumed a handful off of the car parked next to us at the grocery store. I tried to tell her there is a difference between white snow at home and grey snow off of a Prius. She just grinned at me and said, BUT MOMMY! I LOVE SNOW!  And I mean, really, how can I argue with that?

Yes, yesterday looked like a scene out of a German fairy tale. The kind with hungry wolves and bread crumbs and witches that wait. I should have put the babies in their puffy pants and jackets and explored the possibilities of our changed world. But the air was cold and I didn’t feel up to its bite so we stayed inside for most of the morning. I suppose watching Brave for the fifteenth time is its own kind of adventure. When we did finally go outside it was to the parking lot with the Prius and big box grocery store. Viola has become a thing of terrible beauty in any sitting down while restrained situation. She squawks and roars and flings and flungs. It is exhausting. Zuzu, being perceptive to her mommy’s fragile state, proclaimed herself Viola’s caretaker during our hunt for produce and cheese crackers. DON’T WORRY, MOMMY! I WILL TAKE CARE OF VIOLA! LOOK! SHE CAN PLAY WITH MY PINKALICIOUS DOLL!

The Pinkalicious doll. Miss Pinkalicious Pinkerton is Zuzu’s favorite literary heroine and when my parents gave her the doll for Christmas that three year old just about burst with happiness.  She sleeps with her, eats with her and dances BALLET DANCE with her. Viola seemed to understand the selfless nature of Zuzu’s offer and took the doll with an ooh and an ahhh and a hiiiiiiiiii (this last one said with the curve of a rainbow).  With an eye on my list and one hand on the cart, I pushed us through that store with an efficiency that was quite a thing to see. As I grabbed soup and onions and salt pork and granola, I marveled at myself. Look at me, doing this. And doing it well.

I even made it through the bag-it-yourself madness that is our discount supermarket. (Is 15 cents off my red peppers worth the inevitable smashed loaf of bread and crushed eggs?) We huffed and puffed our way to the car across mountains and valleys of ice. The groceries were loaded and the babies buckled in before I realized there was someone missing.

Pinkalicious was nowhere to be found.

I plucked the girls from their cars eats and we slid across the parking lot into the store. First stop, customer service. Why no, they had not seen a pink doll with yarn hair and heart slippers, but they would keep an eye out certainly. And Ma’am? Are you crying?

And yes, yes I was. Because the last weeks have been hard. Because I don’t want my children to know loss of any kind. Because don't you see? My little girl only believes in happy endings. Because I realized I bought two bottles of conditioner instead of the shampoo we needed and to fix it meant another trip to the car and back. And my goodness, can’t I do anything right? And what am I doing grocery shopping with two children? I mean, really, what am I doing with two children at all? I CAN’T EVEN BUY SHAMPOO! And.Where.Is.That.D%&$.Doll?

I tried to keep the moisture off my face as we searched the produce section and then the aisle of crackers. I held Viola on my hip and Margaret’s hand tight as we swept the dairy section and peered into the frozen foods.  And all the while, I panicked and felt ridiculous for all the worry over a toy and then panicked all over again. The floors and shelves were all empty of everything except exactly what they were supposed to hold. And somewhere right in the middle of cursing the day and the store and the crackers and white tiles, I looked down to see my baby.

Zuzu was smiling. And skipping. And delighting in the fluorescent glow of the place. To her it was simple. We had the doll. The doll was lost in the store. We were in the store. We would find the doll. And if the moon fell from the sky and the sun forgot to rise and that doll could not be found, she knew that I would do everything I could to make it better. And if all that were true, what reason could there be to not skip and twirl and touch every wrapper in the fruit snack aisle? A few breaths and dry eyes later the sweet woman from customer service found us, her arms full of a Pinkalicious doll that had disappeared for just a little while.

The girls fell asleep on the way home. Viola with a Ritz cracker still in her hand and Zuzu with her arms around her now slightly smudged best doll. (You can’t travel from the broccoli to the butter without incurring a little wear.) And I decided to learn a little something from my little someones. Not for the first time I was struck by the loveliness of big thoughts in little moments, those moments of clarity that find their way even into my absent-minded head.

I suppose that sometimes we get exactly what we want, whether it is a lost doll the color of frosting or something more lasting. And other times the moon falls from the sky and the sun forgets to rise. But in the end, I think we each have our own happy ending. And that makes all the seeking and waiting less scary. And the open spaces less lonely and closed up moments less small. So take a moment and delight in the glow of this place. Skip, twirl and touch every bright color along your winding path. It is all worth it, every moment, even if we get a little smudged along the way.

Also? Grocery shopping with toddlers is for suckers.