From the Archives
It was such a scorching dog day in late August that the birds were hot-tubbing in our backyard birdbath. I was wearing my bathing suit and had turned the air-conditioning down another notch despite the green voice in my head that said, ‘You should be ashamed.’ It didn’t help my mood to think about my daughter Peggy, her husband Tyler and my two young grandchildren, Jacob and Sophie working outside in 100 degree weather at a camp for foster children in our community? I admired their compassion and magnanimity to devote an entire summer running the camp and I was glad they were due home that evening.
I glanced across the room at my husband engrossed in his book.
“I feel guilty.”
“Why?” he asked not looking up.
“Oh I don’t know I wish I’d gone out to the camp more than twice this summer. Maybe I should’ve stayed a few nights and helped with the campers.”
“You don’t camp.”
“I know but. . .”
“You would've been miserable.” He put the book down. “I think your words were, ‘Camping’s like going out in the woods and pretending you’re homeless,’” he said trying to sound like a woman.
“Okay, right but I should’ve done something to help them.”
“You wanna invite ‘em over?”
“No, they’ll be too tired. I wish I’d done something at their house to make them scream when they walk through their front door tonight, like people do on those home make-over programs.”
“Honey, it’s noon, don’t start thinking about remodeling or painting anything, there’s no time.”
Time, darn, why hadn’t I thought of this yesterday?
Deep in thought I went to the fridge to make something for our lunch, and found an empty cheese wrapper, a tablespoon of tuna and three cherry tomatoes. I needed groceries and that’s when it hit me. I would zip over to Cram-co (that’s what we call Costco because we end up cramming our car to the ceiling with every visit) and fill one of those 18 wheeler-sized carts with every treat I could find, and stock up Peggy’s fridge, cupboard and freezer with meals and snacks to last a month. Jumbo sized Pringles and Ranch and chocolate chip muffins would absolutely thrill their junk-food deprived systems for sure.
I could hardly contain my excitement—kind of like those women on the free shopping sprees sprinting for the boneless hams and steaks when the bell goes off.
Buying groceries for someone else is so much more fun! With each item I tossed in the cart I knew I was escalating the reaction factor. They’d fling open the refrigerator and freezer, to discover a Sear’s Kenmore commercial.
My trunk stuffed with groceries, I pulled up in front of the house and froze. There was a strange blue car in the driveway. Just as I was about to dig out my cell phone ( it was between two frozen cheesecakes) and report the intruder to the sheriff I remembered a twenty-year-old relative whose name I won’t mention had agreed to housesit while they were gone. I’d also got wind of a boyfriend joining her from time to time meaning probably, night to night and I wasn’t real happy about that, but I reminded myself it was none of my business and I would be pleasant and friendly --this was a mission of fun!
I popped out of the car, opened the trunk and scooped up an armload of goodies. Sprinting up the walk and kicking open the unlocked front door I headed to the kitchen and caught sight of a huge young man in boxers and an undershirt coming down the hall from the bedroom.
“WHO ARE YOU?” he bellowed.
“WHO ARE YOU?” I bellowed back.
“I am Dennis Gilbert.” Silent pause. “And I am going to ask you one more time, WHO ARE YOU?”
By now I was really steaming!
“I am Pam Young!” I spit back, my body puffing up like a cat that was ready to fight. “Peggy Carlson’s mother!”
Dennis definitely had a change in demeanor—he almost seemed to kind of shrink back from his attack mode stance as his brain ran a make on the situation.
Hah! You better watch it, buddy. I proudly thought to myself. You’re in big trouble now!
“Oh Peggy Carlson,” he uttered, “uhh, she lives next door.” His hand gestured to the right.
I know, I could have been shot that hot summer afternoon, but in my defense, the Carlson home was one of at least a hundred IDENTICAL homes in the subdivision. They all have a maple tree in the SAME spot in the front yard. They all have the SAME hedge between each parcel and they all have the SAME floor plan.
Part of me wanted to ask Dennis, “Could you just not tell Peggy and Tyler this happened?” Then I’d go home and take the food with me. But I knew they’d find out and a bigger part of me needed to get on with the Sear’s commercial. Besides, I was grateful I’d escaped the six o’clock news.
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