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May 30, 2008

Summer Errands With Kids: Afternoon Delight?

568970_peanuts_3 I spent 94 percent of my childhood crammed in the back seat of my mom's army green Chrysler with my two little sisters, riding around town "running errands."  My mom never ran out of places to go: Kmart, the grocery store, the farmer's market, the hardware store.  If we were well-behaved we'd end the day with a trip through the drive-through carwash, whooping and squealing as the machine's blue brushes thudded against the car windows.

    Apart from the carwash, however, going on errands was a monotonous bore.  It was a more innocent time, when my mom could leave the three of us in the car with the radio on while she went inside the store to fetch a pack of light bulbs, a bushel of corn, or whatever else was on the day's agenda.  Susan, Lauren and I would fight over the middle seat while Paul Simon sang about the "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover."   If my mom was gone a long time, we'd work on Donny and Marie's "Deep Purple," fighting over who got to sing the female part. 

As the day went on my mom would fill the trunk with groceries and the front seat with dog food.  If she got hungry she'd stop by the movie theater and buy buttery popcorn, because she was tall and rail thin and no one worried about junk food back then.  She'd  get back in the car and we'd keep going.  Before we got home, sweating from a day of sitting on black seats in the summer sun, she'd wedge a couple of new lamp shades or packages of garbage bags in the back seat, forcing us to squash closer together.  I whined when I pressed against Susan and felt the sweat beading on her skin.  It was miserable.

It's rare for me to take all three of my boys to run errands, but yesterday we spent five hours driving from one place to another.  These days you can't leave the boys in the car even if you want to; a passerby will call Child Protective Services and you'll end up on the evening news.  Thus, there was no chance the boys would stay in the car listening to Leona Lewis sing "Bleeding Heart" for the umpteenth time, or working out the Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown parts to "No Air." They'd be going inside with me on every single errand.  They were adamant about the fact that it sounded like torture to them.  I didn't argue.

Of course, the boys fought over who would sit in the front seat, but I solved this by implementing the alphabetical rotating system.  Drew sat in the front from the house to Costco, Finn got the next leg, and Porter the next, and so forth, no matter the length of the journey from one destination to the next.  The system worked beautifully and provided me with a new threat: "If you don't stop running you'll lose your turn in the front seat!" 

At Costco the boys learned about waiting in line for cheaper gas, and calculated the amount of money we'd saved by purchasing it there rather than at the Chevron closer to home.  We bought five gallons of milk, and Porter spent the next fifteen minutes pontificating on all the reasons that our family could use a cow, starting with the ready availability of free milk and butter and wrapping up with the fact that we'd be able to quit mowing our back yard, thus reducing carbon emissions.

At the farmer's market the boys freaked out over the hot roasted peanuts, selected juicy Chilton County peaches, ogled the watermelons, and fondled the tomatoes.  At the fish market they examined the eyeballs in the whole flounder, marveled at the four different sizes of shrimp, and promised to devein the shrimp for me if I purchased a pound of mussels.  No, clams.  No, mussels.  We voted.  I bought shrimp and mussels.

We got home exhausted and cantankerous, and I banished all three outside until dinner was ready.  As we sat around the table, Finn described the dead flounder's eyes to Bill while Porter and Drew each claimed credit for choosing the mussels.  After some prodding, the guys let Bill sample a peanut.  I was shocked that they remembered all the places we'd gone, and viewed most of it as an adventure rather than a chore.

"Y'all did all this today?" Bill asked, turning to me.

But I wasn't listening.  I was thinking about the swish of the blue rags on the front of my mom's Chrysler, and the taste of buttery popcorn, and I found myself humming "Afternoon Delight."

Maybe running errands wasn't so bad after all, then or now.

Anne Glamore blogs at Tales From My Tiny Kingdom, where you can read more adventures about farting, sex, marriage, and boys' bloody messes.

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