Momma looked down on me with her lips pressed all tight and flat.
I knew that look. That was the “You’re really in trouble” look.
My arms held on tightly to my package. I was so proud… or I had been just a few minutes ago. It wasn’t often that Momma entrusted me with part of the grocery list.
But today was special. Momma was hosting the Ladies Mission Fellowship from church tonight. She had woken us up early for a Saturday, but we didn’t get to watch cartoons or play. Instead, she had given me and my sister chores. I got to do the dishes. I loved the dishes. I made tons of bubbles and Mr. Fork took Mrs. Spoon out for a ride in his saucer before dropping her off at the bowl lake for a swim. She splashed Mr. Fork in the face… but Momma got in the way.
I didn’t get to finish any more dishes. After that, I had to help my sister clean the bathroom. Sissy didn’t want to make the towels dance. She was grumpy.
When the house was all clean, Momma started dirtying it up again. She made the funny smashed meat stuff that she puts on tiny slices of bread and covers with cheese. When that was in the oven she took out two big bowls and poured out my Checks cereal and pretzels and nuts and stuff into them. I watch Momma from the kitchen table for a while, but she made me go outside when I asked her why she had to make the dishes messy again after we just did them. I tried to tell her she should have made the mess before we cleaned up. But she just pointed to the swing set outside and pressed her lips together all tight.
Now, here in the store, she was giving me that same look again. Maybe I shouldn’t have begged so much to have some of the grocery list she gave Sissy. But I had and I was surprised and excited when she had taken Sissy’s list and tore off the bottom three items and given them to me. She bent over to make sure I knew what the words were. I didn’t know them, but I stood up tall and pretended I did.
Kleenex was the first one. I knew what those boxes looked like.
Plasticware. I sounded out that one. I was good at sounding out. Momma explained that plasticware was the same as spoons and forks but it was the throw-away kind like we use at the park.
Napkins was the last word. That looked like a funny word but I knew what it was.
Momma told me they would all be together in the same place and pointed me in the right direction.
“We’ll all meet right back here when you’re finished.” She had said.
But I didn’t finish as fast as Sissy and Momma, and Momma had come looking for me. I had just found the napkins when Momma came around the corner of the aisle. I stood there with my arms wrapped the large package of napkins that had been so hard to find.
She had that look now.
“What are you doing way over here and why haven’t you finished getting what was on the list. I only gave you three things.”
I pointed to the ground where the other items lay. “I did get them, Momma. Look, I found the napkins too” I was so proud and I held them up high for all to see. But you were wrong, Momma. The napkins weren’t in the same place as the other things. I had to look all over for them. I found them! See.” I held them up higher. “I had to use my sounding out, but, I found them.”
I didn’t understand the look on Momma’s face this time. She bent over and quickly put the plasticware and Kleenex into the cart. She then grabbed the napkins out of my hand and put them back on the shelf real fast like.
Tears filled my eyes before streaming down my cheeks. Why was Momma mad? I had done a good job!
Grabbing my arm, she walked back to the other side of the store and showed me the package of napkins she wanted to get.
“Look,” She pointed. “They’re right here. Right next to the Kleenex.”
“But Momma. The ones I found were better.” I insisted. “Mine were sanitary. I sounded it out!”