Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Very Large Family to Feed

While strolling through the aisles of my local healthy grocery store the other day (I won’t tell you which one, but it rhymes with ‘Mole Lewds’), a woman accidentally pushed her overflowing cart into mine.

“I’m so sorry,” she chirped.  “I can hardly push this thing.  I’ve got a very large family to feed.”

“No worries,” I responded, and then proceeded to scan the cat food shelf in vain, searching for Newman’s Own Organic Dry Mix.  It’s a tad pricey, but The Two Spoiled Cats won’t touch anything else these days.  I was out of town for a month over the summer, and Mr. Newman allowed them many indulgences, including expensive nibbles.

“How about you?”  she asked a little too enthusiastically for my taste.

“I beg your pardon?”  Honestly, I thought she’d wheeled by already.

“Do you have a very large family to feed?”

Glancing in my cart, I felt its contents should have answered her question:  three bottles of wine, olives, a box of Frownies, and an all-natural supplement that promises to ward off the symptoms of pre-menopause.  Just because my body’s getting older, doesn’t mean my face has to show it.  If it does, the wine will surely make me feel a whole lot better about things.

I smiled and shook my head.  “But you do have a cat,” she stated emphatically.

Lord, give me strength.

“I’ve got two,” I replied.

“We had one.  She died several years ago at the ripe old age of eleven.”

One-upmanship is not my style, but anyone who’s ever had a cat knows that the house variety can live up to 14, 15, 16 years or more. 

“I lost my Kramer last year.  He was twenty.”

“Oh,my God!”  she exclaimed.  “How did he die?”

“He was murdered,” I whispered, then proceeded toward the produce section.
I was thumping cantaloupes when I heard her voice again.  I had no intention of buying cantaloupes; it’s just something I enjoy doing from time to time.  She parked her cart next to the kale, regaling an elderly gentleman with stories of her very large family and what they like to eat. 

“Seven kids – can you beat that?” she cried.  “Four are Bob’s from his first marriage and three are mine from my first and second marriages.”

“Well, you are blessed indeed,” the man responded, trying to maneuver around her.

“With such a large family, I can hardly stay on top of all this grocery shopping,” she continued – a little too loudly, if you ask me.  I decided to make a run for it before she found me again, but then I remembered I needed one more item before leaving. 
I heaved a heavy sigh at the sight of the ridiculously long check-out lines.  Remind me, dear reader, to never go grocery shopping on a Saturday.  Luckily, I had just the right amount in my cart to give me license to drop into the express lane. 

“Hi, again!” I turned, and there she stood, grinning like a mad woman, items literally falling out of her cart from the heap she’d created.  I offered back a salutation, and then she asked if I’d mind if she cut in front of me.  Before I could answer, she explained that she was running behind schedule, and she feared the wrath of her very large family if dinner wasn’t on the table by a certain time.  Luckily, the hip and happening young man working the register piped in, informing her that this was strictly express, and she would have to go to another line.  Dejected, she did just that.

Bags in hand, I stopped short of the door in order to retrieve my keys.  I overheard her explaining to the cashier that yes, that coupon should work in this store, and the reason why she needs twelve packages of cold cuts is because she has a very large family to feed.

On the drive home, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.  She’s obviously missing something in her life that compels her to share her story with strangers.  The conspiracy theorist in me, however, chooses to cook up another scenario:  perhaps she’s all alone, and this ‘very large family’ story is merely a ruse to hide a food addiction.  Then I felt bad because I didn’t make more of an effort toward friendliness.  I should have more patience with people of the bubbly, talkative variety.  I should find the filter I use to have before popping off and leaving others to assume my cat died under suspicious circumstances.  I should take people for what they claim to be, rather than whiling away the hours creating little soap operas for them inside my head. 

But if I start doing that, what would I have to write about?