Yesterday I took the kids to Target to get a few things that we needed. Target is like mommy mecca – they have pretty much everything you need in one place. Including (most importantly of all) a Starbucks – because when you are toting around a lot of kids you surely need an afternoon pick-me up.
Having everything in one place is extremely important for me. The length of any trip is not measured by how long it will take me to actually do an errand, gone are the days of sprinting quickly in and picking something up. For me, a shopping trip is measured in terms of how long it takes to get three kids to pick which toy they want to bring in the car, to put everyone’s shoes on, to get three kids buckled into various carseats and settled in with their water or snack or whatever it is that they might need for that trip. It’s finding a double cart (or really – a triple cart) because (heaven forbid) if we can’t find a double cart then someone is going to have to walk and I just know they will walk at the speed of a glacier and complain the whole way about how they wish they could be in the cart. So we find a cart, we get strapped in, we set off, ignoring the stares as people try to wrap their heads around the idea of my mammoth boat of a shopping cart, full to the brim with tiny people.
So Target it is, with one of everything (though maybe not the best priced or nicest) and a latte for mommy.
We pulled into the parking lot yesterday and I immediately knew it was going to be crowded. People swarming and circling around the two rows closest to the store, praying to the parking gods that a spot would open up when they could just as easily park two rows down and walk. I did just that and carried Edie while holding on to Amelia’s hand. Paul gripped tightly onto Amelia and our walking spectacle traversed the parking lot – hollering “chugga chugga choo-choo” the whole way. If I make train noises, they stay holding on.
When we got inside I realized what all the crowds were there for – back to school shopping. How could I have forgotten? It was the first day or first week for so many schools. All the moms and kids wandered the aisles, supply lists clenched in their fists. Back to school. Paul and Amelia are going to preschool but next year they will really have the first day of school. First day of Kindergarten. How did it come so soon? I wandered into the bedding aisle to let the kids pick out a set of sheets for their big kid beds (yellow stripes for Amelia, blue with polka dots for Paul) and saw yet another group shopping in Target that day. College freshmen shopping with their parents for dorm room essentials.
Target has graciously provided lists at various spots around the store. Tear-off sheets with reminders about everything you need to make your dorm life comfortable. Body pillow? Shower caddy? Butterfly chair? I can’t believe that parents are duped into thinking their kids really NEED any of this stuff – but then again I had it all when I was a freshman. I can so vividly remember that shopping trip with MY mom. Wandering the aisles of Target, grabbing one of everything and wondering how my life would be once my parents shut that car door and drove away, once they boarded the plane and I was left, alone, in a new state with no friends. The memory seems so fresh that watching the 18 year old kids peruse the shelves I can actually still feel those butterflies in my stomach. But then it hits me – I’m almost as close in age to the parents as I am to the kids. Woah.
I quickly do the math and right this minute it’s been 12 years since I started college. Assuming all goes well and Paul and Amelia start kindergarten next year and graduate high school on time – we are 14 years from their freshman year. I am almost equidistant. I’m standing in Target, straddling this gap between college freshman and parent of college freshman and I begin to panic. They can’t be that close to college. I feel like I was just there – how can we be THAT close to their first day? I remember my mom collapsing on a bench in a mall in Rhode Island while we were going on a mega shopping spree for my brother for his freshman year. I was still in highschool at the time. She just started crying and said “what if he needs a bandaid?!” I laughed for years at that memory – well if he needs a bandaid, surely he’ll find one. Now I get it. Now I REALLY get it. I’m sure I’ll understand all the more painfully once I get there myself. Luckily I have 14 more years to treasure, 14 more years to prepare. But I’m not sure you can ever really be ready for your babies leaving home.
Almost equidistant. It’s crazy. I don’t know how time got to be so fast. I finish up the shopping trip and push our titanic of a shopping cart back out to the cart corral. We grab our bags and make our chugga choo-choo to the car. I take a deep breath and try to remember – today might be hard, tomorrow might be harder. But they will both be gone so fast. I can’t afford to forget that.