Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Blueberry Situation

It rained today.  A lot.  All day.

So instead of the end-of-the-year picnic our Early Childhood class had planned, we went to open gym.  Shot some basketball.  Pushed around some scooters.  Showed my kids a thing or two around a hulahoop.

After that we went to Trader Joe's.

I love Trader Joe's for many, many reasons.  But there are also a few things I don't like.

1.  Their portion sizes are often too small for my family of four.
2.  Their shopping carts are too small to corral both my kids.
3.  The produce section is too narrow and is often a traffic jam of people desperate for organic berries.

The good still far outweighs the bad so there I found myself, as I do almost every week, with both kids, one in the cart and one walking.

To keep William from running off and eating some piece of enticing fruit I try to keep him interested in the shopping experience.

"How many bananas do you think we should get?"
"Would you rather have pineapple or some oranges?"
"Can you go throw this napkin away for me over there?"
"I need you to get me one bag of peas, please."

Today I asked for his help with the blueberries.

"We need two cartons of blueberries," I said.

"These ones, mommy?"

"Yep, those are the ones! Can you put them in the cart for me?"


But remember, he's a little boy.  And little boys have to be rough with everything.  It's in their nature.  They can't help it.  So he couldn't just gently, ever so carefully, place them in the cart.  He had to hold both cartons of blueberries over his head and then throw them into the cart.

So you can see where this is going.  Of course, one of the cartons popped open and suddenly it was a blueberry free-for-all in the produce section at the Trader Joe's in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"Oh mommy, I am so sorry!"

And he really meant it.

There's the fight of flight response.  But I think moms have the sigh or cry response.

I chose to sigh.

"It's OK, honey.  It was an accident.  But we have to clean them up now."

So there we were in that congested produce aisle on our hands and knees picking up every stray blueberry and putting it back in the carton that was fated for the garbage can.

William, of course, could not overcome the temptation of his favorite fruit and had to taste a few even after I warned him of the dirt and disgust associated with that behavior.  Lucy, spying her brother sneaking a treat, began to fervently clap her hands, her sign for more food please.

I began to feel myself sweat.  The nervous, embarrassed kind of sweat.  More people were coming now.  More people who wanted produce.  More people looking down at me, figuratively and literally.

One mom with a couple of kids in tow strolled by and commented to her children, "Look at what a good job that little boy is doing at picking up all those blueberries."

I looked up and we shared a smile.

"Same thing happened to me last week!" She said.

I started to feel better.  I mean, at least we weren't those people who make a big mess and then just walk away for everyone else to get sticky shoes.

But every party has to have a pooper.  Even at Trader Joe's.

An elderly woman was coming straight for the section we were crowding.  So I stood up from my blueberry-picking to try to move my cart to give her better access.

She didn't look at me.  But when she spoke it was like she wanted me to hear but she also wanted me to think she didn't want me to hear.

"Somebody's got problems..."

Only she said in a sing-songy, condescending voice like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Parada.

"Somebooooody's got proooooob-lems..."

I looked her straight in the eye.  I almost said something.  But then didn't.  She never even glanced at me.  She just walked away.

In that moment I chose the better path.  The path to keep doing the right thing even though it was embarrassing and condescending.

Not one person stopped to help me today except that mother who offered me a kind word.  Not even a Trader Joe's employee.  When we were finished picking up every last blueberry I put them on the bottom of the cart and disposed of them myself as we left the store.

I hope the next time I witness an accident I'll be someone who stoops to offer help.  I hope William will jump in to offer a hand.  And maybe you, after reading this, might feel compelled to help too.  We've all been there.  I don't know why we pretend we haven't when it happens to someone else.


  1. You are a better woman than I. I would have shot that woman a nasty look! I also would have stopped to help you. I'll be honest, before having a baby, I probably would have been less inclined to help. However, becoming a Mom has really changed my perspective and I would have been on my knees scooping up the berries right along with you!

    Also, I am jealous you have TJ access. We don't have any here despite my regular letters to the company begging them to come on down!

  2. I've experienced the same thing, only with grape tomatoes.

    It happens to the best of us.

    Don't let that lady bother you - it sounds like she has her own problems.

  3. What's with you and old people? Maybe you should take the kids to an old folks home and make peace...karma for Catholics, you know?

  4. Oh don't worry! Lunden did the same thing except with cherry tomatoes. He sits in the shopping cart like a nice little boy and then I hand him all of the produce to put in the basket. Two weeks ago he chucked the tomatoes into the big basket of the cart behind him, they flew everywhere before they even hit the cart. An employee did help us and I made Lunden pick them up. He ate three, and I didn't say a word hoping nobody saw but me.

  5. What is it with cranky old people giving you such a hard time? Jeez!

  6. Oh, Jenny! I am so sad that no one stopped to help you. I always try my best to help other mamas w/ kids in tow - even if the only help that I can extend is a smile and a kind word.



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