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“Mama, I had a dream about you last night.”
Oh, I heard that collective gasp of horror from all the other Mamas of kids who dream. When kids dream about you, somehow you’re never at your best. Last night, for instance, my daughter dreamt that she wanted to go hang gliding, but I said “no.” Then we went to the fair, and she wanted to go on a ride, but I said “no.” Then we all adjourned to the cafeteria, where she asked for dessert, and I said — guess what? — “no.” And then I said “yes” to her sisters! What is the matter with me? I mean, besides that it wasn’t actually me, it was just her little squirrel brain firing off in her sleep.
Well, I’ll tell you. I wake up in the morning, and before I even let my tootsies touch the floor, I think, “In what way can I disappoint, frustrate, thwart, defraud, or otherwise let down my family, so that I will be forever associated in their minds with great suffering?” And I’m not allowed to have any coffee until I have a plan.
The other day, I went shopping.I made my shopping list taking into account the needs, desires, tastes, and schedules of twelve people, plus a dog, a fish, two parakeets, a mouse, and two hamsters. Shopping took three-and-a-half hours, as it always does, because I go to Walmart, and then my shopping buddy and I get lunch, then we hit the dollar store if they’re still young enough to find it thrilling, and then we go to the cheap supermarket and fill two carts with food and treats, and then we go to the real supermarket to pick up whatever we couldn’t find elsewhere. I also got gas, went to the bank, stopped at the post office, and nipped into that awesome toy store that is closing, so I could find Christmas presents at a discount for the kids. And we drove around for a while looking for a power station, in case any Pokewhatevers were lurking about.
But I forgot my shopping list at home. However, I remembered everything on it.
I chose, bought, bagged, loaded into the car, unloaded from the car, and put away approximately 426 useful and desirable and reasonably-priced items, but I forgot soap.
So my husband mentioned it the next day, and I apologized, but I forgot to pick some up again. This went on for a few days. He would mention it; I would promise to buy some, but then forget. Finally, in desperation, he went to the store himself and attempted to buy some soap.
I know. Someone should make a daytime movie special about us: She Didn’t Buy Soap . . . Twice.
So the poor fellow gets to the counter with his four bars of Ivory, and the cashier looks at him from under his S-Mart visor, one canny eyebrow raised in suspicion.
“Buying soap, eh?” the fellow says. My husband admits that he is.
“Ain’t that a weddin’ ring on your finger?” continues the inquest. Sotto voce, my husband acknowledges that he is, indeed, married.
“She run off or sumpin’?”
A single tear of shame trickles down my husband’s craggy, careworn face. No, she did not run off, but she might as well have, mightn’t she’ve? Leaving the house soaplessly forlorn, like some kind of heartless amalgam of Medea, Mrs. Portnoy, and whoever made Dina Lohan be that way.
My husband, who, at this point, is already suffering mightily under the privation of soap for 36 hours and counting, cracks under pressure and begins to babble any lie that comes to mind:
“It’s not her fault! She has a shattered pelvis and two kinds of face cancer! She tried to order soap from her hospital bed, but the internet went down because of that multiple helicopter crash! We usually have lots of soap, because she gets everything eleven weeks in advance, but she was technically dead for four minutes, and the surgeon said I should let her re-e-e-e-e-e-e-essssst. . . ”
Unable to bear the searing scorn of the other customers who would never forget the disgraceful spectacle of a man forced to buy his own soap, he fled out of the store, clutching the bundle of Ivory to his chest, flinging wads of dollar bills behind him in his agony.
The next day, I woke up surrounded by my family. They proffered Champagne-colored roses, home-baked pastries, and a fragrant mug of coffee on a silver tray. I began to rise, but in a single voice, they insisted that I remain in bed, because of all the things I do for them.
Their faces were bathed in rainbows through the prism of my grateful tears. “My loves,” I said, “My dearest loves, I feel so appreciated, and that scone smells heavenly. Just let me get up and visit the restroom, and wash my hands. If someone would just hand me the soap . . . ”
And then I woke up. Hey, mothers have dreams, too.