This morning I was off on “sanity time” for a few hours. This could be “writing time” if I liked, or “painting time” if I was in the middle of a portrait (it is amazing what you can do in a minivan) or “social time” (coffee with a friend who had understandably believed I'd dropped off the ends of the earth until setting up the date), but today's hours fell under the heading of pure “sanity time” because whatever might make me more sane was the best option. Especially since my wife will be away most of today and all of tomorrow, there are only a few days of school left, and I need every resource available to continue as a reasonably 'good mom' for the next few days.
Surprisingly, the first stop on my sanity tour was the Rite Aide drugstore half a mile from our house. They didn't open until eight, so I lounged in the minivan with a vampire novel until the doors were unlocked, and then walked in, reusable cloth bag and list in hand, to shop and saunter, browse and breathe, until I had explored everything Rite Aide had to offer and regained my zen.
This Rite Aide ramble was a luxury. Generally, I rush into and out of every stop on the hit parade of errands that make up every day. I arrive at the grocery store with a list that I walk through, from right to left, as I make my way efficiently through the aisles. When going to the orthodontist, doctor or any other stop, I multitask, whether that is list-making, plot planning or reading aloud to someone.
So Rite Aide without any specific motives except the vague items I'd jotted down on half a slip of paper was like a vacation. I wandered down the aisles of cheap plastic toys, seasonal offerings of sun umbrellas and tiki torches, and every kind of drug-store brand makeup in America.
And found lots of interesting items I couldn't live without. Spray Benadryl for those close encounters with allergy-inducing animals, like our larger dog, our daughter's guinea pig, or the occasional sting nettle on Vancouver Island. Pomegranate/cranberry flavored Emergen-C, so I can prevent colds plus ingest antioxidants, Anti-motion sickness chewables for the boys in our lives, who heave, if non-medicated, approximately an hour and a half en route.
No lipstick, my typical therapeutic impulse buy—my cosmetic drawer at home is full of matte reds and bold wines—but I found a mascara I was willing to give a chance, an eyeliner than might work, and a powder I hope will minimize the natural oils that keep my skin relatively unlined at 44 (avoiding the sun my whole life helps, too), but make me annoyingly shiny. If I wanted to “glow” I'd have sex before stepping out the door every day.
I beheld-without-buying the assortment of gel pens in varying hues, Sharpies in Cafe Colors, hair dyes that tempted me a little, but not enough to change from the color on the box stashed in the medicine cabinet at home, in limbo until I decide I've had enough with the growing gray hairs and become solidly auburn again. I passed without pause the aisles of candy, sugary cereals and snack foods designed to tempt impulse purchases of fatty overpriced comfort food. And the wine aisle (that was a new one on me—who knew they sold booze?) was a swift walk-through; I haven't had a drink since twenty-one.
Yes, we needed freezer bags, they were on the list at home, and bubble bath I didn't get hives from, and I justified a desperate-measure asthma inhaler since my prescription ones seem to have done nothin' in my fight for breath the last two weeks, since the cold settled in my chest to stay. Obviously we needed bubble blowing liquid—summer approaches—and our youngest son did ask for shaving cream to play with in his bath, and a Hello Kitty coloring activity book jumped in my bag as I passed.
So, on some level, the kids were still in my head, just not under my feet.
Not that all of this isn't a bit pathetic, a portrait of a vain, shiny, allergic, freezer-bag deprived middle-aged woman who needs a bath, has a cold and can't stop thinking about her children even on a drugstore spending spree. But you know, it was relaxing. And no one needed me. Or asked for anything. Or needed a ride. Or mediation. It felt really good.
And maybe, just maybe, I've found a mascara that might do.