I clenched my face tightly and applied the smoldering Mommy Stare. I removed the newest candy catch from his grasping fingers and returned it to the appropriate bin. I wanly studied the Hershey bar that I had just replaced and wondered if it was separated into pieces within the package. If it was broken, I should have to buy it. That would be the right thing to do. I didn’t know if it was broken and I didn’t want to pick it up again to find out. Perhaps ignorance was preferred at the moment. I felt a small stab of guilt about the stupid candy bar, but I was quickly distracted once again by my three year old son grabbing another prize. This time it was bubblegum. I pulled it from his hand a bit more gently this time, but hissed fiercely at him.
My son fixed me with his merry, fudge colored eyes and giggled. His arms flailed wildly in an attempt to retrieve the apprehended bubblegum from my increasingly tight grip. I had to consciously remind myself not to be squishing this candy as well.
“No!” I insisted. “I am not playing! No candy!”
I glanced over at the designated ‘No Candy Checkout Aisle’ and desperately longed to be in that line regardless of its’ length. I was tiring quickly of the Candy Grab Game. I looked at my watch. I needed to hurry. I had to pick up my other son at school in less than an hour. When I looked up again, I found my child half standing in the cart seat reaching for a box of festively colored breath mints despite the straining seatbelt. The woman in front of me glared disapprovingly at my apparent lack of parenting skills. I felt an incredible urge to flee. My embarrassment and frustration was suddenly replaced with undiluted joy. I remembered that I had a bag of Goldfish crackers in my purse! Relief flooded all the way down to my toes as my fingers pushed past an amazing array of items in there to locate the baggie filled with perfect child distraction. My son took the bag from my hand immediately and tried to return himself to a proper sitting position. He impatiently implored me to open his treat while I was attempting to disentangle him from the rather worthless excuse of a seatbelt. Once he was in place and munching happily, I allowed myself the luxury of scanning the tabloids that are placed strategically in the checkout lane above the candy. They are, of course, the proverbial adult checkout line candy.
Eventually, my turn to pay presented itself. I loaded some clothing articles onto the conveyor belt. The smiley, middle-aged cashier began to assist. She lifted a plastic storage container from my cart and chuckled as golden droplets trickled down the sides onto her hands and the counter.
“Did we spill some apple juice?” The woman smiled wide showing crooked teeth and a pleasant nature as she reached for a roll of paper towels under the register.
I was struck completely speechless with horror. There had been no juice. My eyes flitted nervously to my son’s blue shorts to observe the telltale dark, wet spot. He nonchalantly continued his feasting. The woman retrieved the last two items from my cart and I was unable to cease being motionless. Time seemed to stretch in front of me as I watched, seemingly unable to intervene or participate. I wanted to yell: “No! Stop! It’s pee!” But I couldn’t. Instead, I robotically swiped my credit card, completed the transaction and thanked her hoarsely. I pushed my cart a few feet toward the automatic doors and then swiftly turned around to return to the crime scene.
The woman looked at me quizzically as she bagged the next customer’s items. In hushed tones, I informed her that she had been handling urine, not apple juice, and that I was horribly sorry. It was her turn to be speechless. I apologized again and humbly departed.
This incident occurred seventeen years ago and still haunts me as a shining trophy in my Most Mortifying Mommy Moments Hall of Shame.