Thursday, July 13, 2006

The One-Armed Men's Club

weekend excitement

"We have to stop meeting like this," I laughed and winked in his direction.

But his cherubic face, Panama hat and tiny, drool-stained t-shirt were a magnetic combination. He giggled. The one-armed guy he was attatched to began to laugh, too.

It occurred to me then, as I passed another similarly disabled shopper -- his charge in a ball cap, eating shell peas from the bag -- there is a club to which I cannot belong.

Fathers at the grocery store -- a kid in one arm and a grocery basket in the other -- is apparently the new black.

It's something I might never have noticed, though, had it not been for the fact that it was 8 a.m. Saturday morning and we were out of milk. After all, my husband usually does the grocery shopping.

Where the supermarket was once the bailiwick of the harried housewife, juggling bottles and sippy cups and corralling children aisle by aisle, I am noticing more and more men taking their place in line at the checkout.

As I push on the skins of melons and paw through bags of grapes for one with just the right amount of globes, I notice the one-armed man going through pretty much the same motions with the lettuces, inspecting the leaves.

We trailed each other through the store, missing each other in some aisles and meeting up in others. I wonder to myself: 'Is mom at home, enjoying a much needed break?'

I smile in line at the checkout when his items bump up against mine on the conveyor belt. I think of my own husband at home with our kidlet, and how he's probably done the very same thing with some other mommy who'd managed to sneak out of the house for some quiet, alone-time grocery gathering.

By the time I reach my car in the parking lot another one-armed man makes his way toward the market. He stops to greet the man with whom I'd been doing the grocery store shuffle just moments ago.

I started to pack my trunk with my purchases, taking extra time and trying to handle the bags gently so the rustling wouldn't impugn my ability to eavesdrop on their conversation.

What were they talking about? I imagined they were discussing the best baby foods, sleepless nights and the-cutest-baby-in-the-world-has-changed-my-life small talk. But I couldn't make out all the words. It was as if their club had a secret vocal tone only dually sworn and initiated members could hear.

I stopped trying to hone in on the discussion, but kept my attention in their direction as I snapped the trunk closed and returned my cart before slipping into the driver's seat. I told myself I'd just be disappointed if they were talking about beer, or porn or who's headbutting who in major league sports.

They were still locked in conversation as I eased out of my parking space. I couldn't contain my curiosity, though, and I lowered the window as I approached, just in case a few words fell into my car as I passed by. They just shifted the weight of their still-smiling kids from one hip to the other, and, with a wave of their hands, parted ways.

It figures that they'd have secret handshakes, too.


Andrea said...

I haven't made my way to the grocery store for awhile, mostly a harried stop in the wee hours of the morning before dropping Gabe at the babysitter's, so I haven't noticed a club. I have to go soon to restock our dwindling pantry stash though, so I'll be paying attention.

toyfoto said...

Maybe it's a regional thing ...

Gail said...

I love seeing men at the grocers with their bubs. In recent years, I've seen it more (and at restaurants, too), and it melts me.

Diana said...

You know, I just noticed this the other day while I was doing the weekly shopping and wishing that the husband was home to take over our food/baby wrestling duties for just once. Unfortunately, the rare times he's done it, we've ended up eating oreos and cheese puffs all week because they were ON SALE and he didn't want to pay full price for the veggies.


toyfoto said...

Oh wow, Diana. I think in this senario, i am the man. I wouldn't try to save money with junk, though. it's more like I'd just get coffee, spinach, cookies and cheese if I were in charge of the BIG shopping duties.

diana said...

Well hey, that's all the food groups there. Coffee = beans = protein, veggies, dairy and cookies = carbs. You're all set!