The family shot out in all directions. Somehow we kept finding each other again, even the smallest who mostly knows to stick with the pack.
The pet food aisle was unusually crowded. I noticed an elderly woman loading up her trolley with masses of dog food. I didn't stop to help her until I passed her again ten minutes later. She was still stocking up.
Without thinking about the potential to offend I asked "Would you like some help there?" Relief as she smiled warmly and said "How did you know?" I hauled what were in fact very light bags to her trolley and we chatted. She asked "Why do women always know? It is the men that are the worst." And then she told me about the impatient man who had scowled at her for blocking his way. I tut-tutted and we parted smiling, both feeling better for having connected.
It is hard being at the outer edges of the age spectrum in the modern world. We are not so tolerant of people who move at a different pace, who cannot rush because their bodies no longer allow them to or they have no need or their minds no longer work as quickly. Or of the very young who cannot help but rush, zipping across aisles and interrupting the flow of traffic. Emotions ready to spring out unchecked at any moment, everything on display.
I aim for calm but firm when dealing with the meltdowns. I have backup for a change although mysteriously find myself alone each time we hit a new pothole. It is hard to know what my fellow shoppers are really thinking although my best guesses are "why did she go shopping with her kids in tow" "spoiled brats, look at her molly coddling them" "stupid breeder, all those kids and she can't even control them"and hopefully at least one "poor thing, I remember what that was like" or even better "wow, what an amazing mum staying calm under pressure".
At the checkout I find myself discussing Ireland, the GFC and immigration to Australia with the bagger. Her Irish accent is so thick and the noise from my youngest so loud that I have trouble catching all she says although I get the gist. In the meantime I send the bigs out to keep an eye on an upset sibling who is beyond reason over my refusal to buy a DVD.
We return to the car and begin the journey home. The shopping trip was messy but bursting with life. Of course shopping alone is more efficient but exposing kids to the world is important. And exposing the world to kids is too.