...and it wasn't even because they woman in front of me in line had six different ads she wanted to do price matching on.
It should’ve been because I’ve gone to four different Wal-Marts in the past eight days, a disturbingly high amount of trips to a store I’m morally opposed to. Back-to-school season, however (which I’m beginning to see is more expensive than Christmas), demands multiple trips somewhere, and as Target seems to have decided to fairly severely understock their school-supply shelves this year (at least, mine has; it looks like the zombie apocalypse swept through), my only other choice has been Wal-Mart. This last trip failed to produce the one thing I can’t seem to find, a non-feminine pencil case (the kind with three holes so you can clip it into your binder). I did find some this morning, but I don’t think Jake nor Nathan would appreciate a pink one with black and grey glittery swirls and hot-pink furry trim at the zipper, so I didn’t actually buy them.
Partly the high concentration of trips to Wal-Mart has to do with Haley going off to college. The town where she’s living has two Wal-Marts, but no Targets, and both times we’ve been up there (once to drop her off and then again this weekend to bring up the forgotten necessities) we’ve taken her to buy groceries. It’s disconcerting to find yourself weepy inside of a Wal-Mart, as it’s perhaps the most utilitarian place in contemporary America (read: hardly the place for overwhelming emotion, let alone an epiphany of sorts), but it happened to me both times we took her. It might seem like a case of tomato soup, a bunch of angel hair pasta, milk, eggs, cheese, butter and bagels would be enough to feel like she’d be OK, but providing food is one thing. Feeling like I taught her enough is another thing, and a shopping cart full of food, shampoo, and a cheese grater hardly compensates.
But really, what made me cry was apple cider.
I was ok in Wal-Mart this morning, mostly. While I shopped I thought about Haley sitting in her first university classroom. I thought about Jake, who already hates school, and how I might somehow help him and not make the mistakes with him that I made with Haley. I thought about Nathan’s current dilemma, which is needing new jeans; it’s nearly impossible to find him pants as he needs a 26 waist and a 32 leg. I thought about Kaleb and his dislike of reading and how it feels impossible to fix as I’ve already been doing, his entire life, the things you’re supposed to do to help your kids love to read.
I was OK until I saw the apple cider.
It’s a kind of cider that my Wal-Mart only carries in the fall, and seeing the big end-cap of it stopped me right in my tracks. Because it means that fall is here, and as much as autumn is my favorite season, I don’t want it to be here. Maybe because it is my favorite season, I don’t want it to start. Because if it starts, it will only end, and probably that is why I got teary in Wal-Mart this morning: because my life, right now, feels like a season of endings. The end of Haley’s childhood (which I know, I’ve blogged about way too much lately), the end of Jake & Nathan going to junior high together, the end of Kaleb’s littleness (an 8-year-old in third grade just seems so non-little to me; it feels like the middle of childhood instead of its beginning). Sure: Jake starting high school is a beginning for him. But it’s so close to the end, too, to the end of his childhood, and then Nathan is hot on his heels, and it feels like a cascade of endings just piling up one after another. The end of how my life was just last month, of how my family’s life was.
Fall will come. I’ll do everything I can to savor it, hiking and taking pictures and admiring the mountains. But it will end. Just like I did everything I could to savor the last eighteen years of motherhood, but now it is ending. The golden summer of it. I know: they will all still need me. Actually, I don’t know that. I hope that, but most of me is afraid that they will all not need me at all, will move on and away and that I’ll become mostly an antique curiosity in their lives. All I could do, standing in front of apple cider at Wal-Mart and trying not to completely lose it, was think about the mistakes I’ve made and the ways I’ve failed to give them what they needed and all of the things I should’ve done differently.
I didn’t buy any apple cider.
I finished shopping, my heart heavy. I let these lines slide over my thoughts, over and over: doesn’t everything end, at last, and too soon? (Even though I know the real quote is die, doesn’t everything die too soon, but "end" fit better.) My grasshoppers are flying away, autumn is starting, the leaves are changing, and no matter what I do, time won’t stop.