Bad winter weather was forecasted for this weekend, blizzard-like conditions and ice on the roads and piles of snow like unto which we, the residents of a Midwestern state where even elderly grandparents drive Hummers so that they can safely get to bridge club, had never seen before.
I have always scorned the people who hear a storm report and madly rush to the grocery to buy milk, eggs and bread. Because if I have to spend a few days completely snowed in with the kids, I'm going to go to the store and buy, like, a gallon of Bailey's and any time-consuming DVD that is displayed near the check-out stand. Never mind if it's rated R and titled Dawn of the Brain Eating Zombies - if it has a running time of over 90 minutes, it is ours. Get your priorities straight, people. You can eat a turkey sandwich any day you want to, but how many times a year can you traumatize your children while cocooned in a pleasant Irish buzz?
So. The four of us watched our local news at 11:00 on Friday and as the meterologist gave us the somber news, a little niggling thought kept tormenting me, right at the back of my brain, in that special place reserved for your brother's telephone number and the combination of your locker at the YMCA. Something urgently wanted to be remembered, but what was it?
Then I remembered.
We had precisely four rolls of toilet tissue in the house.
"We need to go to the store, like, now," I said to my husband, standing up and stuffing my feet into my sneakers without untying them.
"It's eleven-thirty!" he protested. "It's cold outside. I'm very tired. We have plenty of food..."
I interrupted him in the middle of his litany of complaints. "Yes, and when that food nears the end of the digestive process, are you going to be okay with using a cleansing handful of snow to finish things off?"
"Oh," he said. And got up to put on his coat.
The girls preferred to stay home, since they wished to shower, put on their pajamas and loll in front of the television watching Christmas movies instead of coming to help their aged parents wrestle a twelve-pack of double-roll toilet paper to the ground and drag it home. So my husband and I set off for the twenty-four hour Super Wal-Mart, congratulating ourselves that since it was fifteen minutes until midnight, we'd have the whole store to ourselves.
Boy, were we ever wrong.
Wal-Mart was total pandemonium. The parking lot was full of trucks and SUVs restlessly cruising to find an empty place, any empty place. Like maybe on top of a dumpster out back, or maybe across the four-lane highway at Blockbuster. We travel armed with a placard that allows us to park in the parking spaces assigned to the handicapped, so we felt we had a sporting chance, and sure enough, we were rewarded.
"I am so glad I was in that car accident all those years ago and broke everything," I said fervently. "Because look how handy all those injuries have made things! We got a really close parking space in an entirely full parking lot and all I had to do was break nearly every bone in my body, slam my head through a windshield and spend two month in the hospital learning to walk again! Whew!"
My husband never appreciates this gallows humor and gave me the stink eye as we got out and proceeded into the store to get a cart, pressing forward through the crowds to get pick up the toilet paper and several bags of potato chips. Because, our priorities? They are in order.
While we were there, we grudgingly gathered up a couple gallons of milk, some eggs and the last two loaves of bread, assuring one another that we were buying these items not because we were mindless lemmings running for the cliff, but rather because we intended to make a hearty meal out of bread slices soaked in egg, served in a bowl of milk. We trundled the cart off to the check-out lines, realizing that the people we were passing in the long lines that stretched so far back into the store, we could practically see the curvature of the earth, were the check-out lines.
"These are the check-out lines?" my husband said bleakly, straining his eyes to see the employee scanning the purchases of the first customer in line, approximately three-hundred eighty six carts ahead of ours. "Do you have any binoculars in your purse?"
"No, but I have a deck of cards," I said. "Let's make a table top out of this package of toilet paper and play two-hand euchre."
We called the girls to let them know we were going to be a while and settled down for what turned out to be an hour's wait in that line. When we realized that we were going to be home after 1:00 a.m., we called the girls to tell them to pray their rosary and settle down on the couch to snooze, that we'd be home as soon as possible. They were very pleased at this and reported that they were already snuggled up with the dogs and some pillows and blankets, still watching Christmas movies.
"If I'd known it was going to be like this, I would have just had you stand in line with an empty cart while I went around picking stuff up and bringing it back," my husband said. We eventually got too warm in our coats and took them off, chatting lazily about this and that as we stood, moving forward in line, tile by tile.
"I think we should pray our rosary," my husband, reaching into his pocket. "We're going to be way too sleepy when we get home. You start, and we can pray back and forth."
You have to love a husband who is completely un-self conscious about praying a rosary in Wal-Mart. It was really noisy in there, what with all the people bustling around and the Christmas music playing over the store's speakers to keep everyone cheerful. That was probably one of the nicest, most meaningful rosaries I have ever prayed, meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries and praying for all the people around us, for our families, for the bad weather approaching, that everyone would be safe and warm and fed.
And that they'd have all the toilet paper they needed. Amen.
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