The Shopping Trip – A Short Story

Jenna was exhausted that day. It had been a trying week. The stomach flu had left her entire family decimated. The house looked like three tornadoes had run through simultaneously and both Jenna and the dog were in desperate need of baths.

Jenna spent her entire day trying to bring some semblance of order to her household. Even managing to get both herself and the dog a quick shower. Just as it was time to head out the door to pick up her kids, and the kids she watched, from school it dawned on Jenna that she may need to feed her family supper that evening.

Jenna approached her refrigerator with a sense of dread. She knew what she would find. Nothing edible. Her pantry was in the same state. With a sigh of exasperation, Jenna had to admit the awful truth. She needed to go to Costco for provisions. And would have to take her entire afternoon crew with her.

Jenna climbed into her trusy Mom Van and headed out for the first of three schools. At each stop she picked up kids until nearly every available seat in her van was taken. Once they were all loaded into the car, Jenna broke the news.

“Next stop Costco,” Jenna announced. She expected to hear groans and complaints from her myriad passengers. Because really, what kid relishes a trip to the grocery store? However, she heard the exact opposite.

“I love to go to Costco!” Justin shouted from the very back seat.

“Me too!” “Me three!” “Me four!” “Me lastly!”

Instead of the grief she expected, Jenna was shocked to hear each and every one of them express great excitement at the thought of a trip to Costco.

While Jenna was relieved, she was also quite curious. “Why in the world do y’all want to go to Costco with me?”

“Because they give you free food!” exclaimed the youngest, Emma.

Cooper, the bibliophile said, “I like to look at all the books.”

“I like to push the cart and will do it for you.” Mia explained.

And finally, the answer that puzzled Jenna the most, was that of the oldest child, Ava. “I like the way people look at us when we’re all together.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” implored Jenna.

“Just wait. If you pay attention, you’ll see.”

Puzzled by Ava’s response, and curious all the same, Jenna headed in the direction of the local Costco. After parking and placing Mia in charge of pushing the cart, Jenna gave Justin the list she had scribbled out on an old envelope and they were off.

As they got to the book section, Cooper ran over to the kids’ table and began to comb through the bounty on display. At that same moment, a woman in a business suit began to peruse the offerings on the other side of the table. When Jenna and the rest of the kids caught up to Cooper, she noticed the look of disbelief and even a little disdain on the face of the woman at the table. Assuming they had merely surprised her with their abrupt arrival, Jenna didn’t think too much about it.

Having satisfied Cooper’s request, they began to tackle the grocery list. The deli area of the store was a virtual treasure trove of samples. Emma was in heaven, especially when one of the offerings was fresh baked cookies. Several times during the sampling, Ava nudged her mother to bring her attention to the reaction the group received from other shoppers. Jenna began to pay close attention to her fellow Costco members.

There were a great variety of reactions. Some were big smiles, some were a bit sympathetic (especially from other moms toting a gaggle of kids around with them), some were puzzled, some were quick to look away, and some were even a little rude with their long held stares. While the majority of the shoppers greeted them with big smiles, there were several other reactions that left Jenna a little perplexed.

Jenna and the kids finished their shopping, checked out and headed for the parking lot. As they were unloading the car, Ava walked up beside her mom and asked, “Did you see the looks people give us?” Jenna replied, “I did notice. And I see what you mean now. We managed to illicit a lot of different reactions from the other shoppers. I really don’t understand why.” Ava giggled a little as she said, “Seriously mom? Look at us. Take a step back and imagine how someone seeing us all together for the first time might be a little…surprised.”

Baffled by her daughter’s assertion, Jenna stopped and looked at her crew with a fresh set of eyes. Looking at each child for a couple of seconds, it dawned on her what Ava was talking about and why their little group stood out in the store.

Jenna first looked at Ava; 15 years old, tall, green eyed, with creamy white skin and bright red hair. Next up was Justin; 13 years old, blue eyed with shaggy, dirty blond hair and a healthy sun-kissed glow from long hours outside. Mia, the other 13 year old, was average height, with hazel eyes, and beautiful mocha colored skin. Cooper, whose parents had immigrated from India, was 10 years old with deep brown skin and eyes and short jet black hair. And finally, 9 year old Emma, who was actually taller than Cooper, had bleach blond hair, blue eyes and freckles visible on every inch of her skin.

Even though a couple of the kids were actually related, not a single one looked like they came from the same family. They were as diverse as the occupants of any metropolitan subway car. But they all had one thing in common – they were Jenna’s (even is just for a small part of the day) and she loved every single one of them. Just as importantly, they all loved each other.

On the ride home, Jenna and Ava discussed their shopping trip and the reactions they noticed. Midway through the drive, Ava blurted out, “Can you imagine what people must think when they see the big bag of rainbow colored Skittles that tag along with you on your errands?”

Immediately, both mother and daughter broke into a fit of laughter, creating a tidal wave of inquiries from the backseats of the van. Once Jenna had gotten ahold of herself, she told the kids that they had a new name for their little makeshift after school family. “We’re the Rainbow Skittles Crew.” A rousing round of approving hoots and hollers broke out in the entire vehicle, along with a chorus of, “Skittles! Skittles! Skittles!”

In that moment, it didn’t matter that Jenna had had a rough week. All that mattered was the unmitigated joy she felt at the thought of her van full of rainbow colored Skittles.

 

 

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