Wednesday, December 29, 2004

and eat it too

March 7th. Have I mentioned yet that I'm grateful my due date does not coincide with any major holidays? Other than a crowding of family birthdays in March, and I suppose a chance of a St Patrick's Day baby, we're in the clear.

It was the morning of Mike's birthday. I'll try not to go into how I have married a man who's birthday is four days before Christmas or what pressures this might place on his wife year after year. Not that my husband asks for anything, wants anything, or, let's face it, needs anything that badly. This year his one request was the cake part – chocolate with chocolate frosting, chocolate chips and chocolate candles.

I arrive at the store not as early as I'd hoped, and I know immediately upon getting out of the car there is big potential for derailment. There is someone sitting at a folding card table by the door. He has forms and signs and damn if he isn't asking people if they are registered voters. Shit. This is all I need. Decisions about important issues. I creep closer and see this one's about the new high-end development and golf course they just changed the county's general plan to approve. It's a bad idea. But I don't know all the facts and I just need… "Good Morning!" The man is in his late forties, dressed in earthy tones, and probably belongs to the green VW bus with the If War is the Answer, We're Not Asking the Right Question bumper sticker parked a couple spots away. "Maybe later," I call, bustling by in my best New York stride.

I stand in the grocery store mid-aisle, not yet awake, starting on a cold, thinking about the agenda for the rest of the day, and being generally lost. Store clerks taking pity on me stop one after another to ask if I need help finding something. Yes, I say, and read off something on my list. They point, I thank them, maintain my position, and when the next one comes by I ask again for the same item. This goes on until one of them wants me to follow him, and I distractedly trail my guide through frozen foods to where the chocolate chips are kept. Okay, zombie preggo is on her way to a cake!

Even in an age of superstores and enormo-buy-your-vintage-wine-ear-medicine-fresh-salmon- and-have-your-tires-rotated-under-one-roof stores sometimes things don't work out simply. No cake pans at this stop. A person needs a cake pan. I lingered in the store for a while hoping a cake pan would materialize, or a cake pan fairy perhaps. Acceptance, not my forte. I thought about returning home without a cake pan – you know, one of those plans where you'll just "figure something out," but then I broke down to logic, checked out, and started thinking about where to go to buy a cake pan. That's when I ran into my socially responsible friend again.

I took two steps past his table ignoring his attempts to grab my attention, then stopped. "They want to build it on ag land, don't they?" I called behind me, knowing he was staring at my back. "Yes!" he said, joyful at this open door. "And they'll be 100,000 more blah-dee-blah blah-blah blah…" I don't know what he said after that. It wasn't him that had gotten me to stop. It was my own damn conscience.

I reached for a clipboard and started to write in my name and address. "I'm just not really awake yet," I told him. "Too early for meaningful social contributions."

He had the answer. "I can offer you a spiritual renewal."

For some of you this might seem an odd thing for someone to say. I've been six years in California; I didn't even look up.

"I wish you energy (he lifts out of his chair and waves his hands above me) and peace (he brings his hands into prayer position) This could be the day for clearing mental space, creating sacred…"

"You know what I really need?" I interrupt. "A cake pan."

"A cake pan?" Though he repeats my plea, he is unmoved by it, continuing immediately with the process of healing me, or at least wishing healing on me.

Apparently not noticing the protruding belly that met him almost at eye level as he sat back down behind his card table on this foggy morning, he recommends I give up alcohol and caffeine. This last comment appears to seal my healing session and I leave, no closer to a cake pan. As I walk away, I hear him thank the next woman for "taking the time to do this." Hey! He didn't thank me, I think. All I got was a blessing toward my spiritual well-being!

That's what I get for trying on good habits before the baby gets here. What kind of an example would I be if I'd zipped by like I really wanted to and shirked my social duty? Still, I was glad that from safe in his little swimming pool of belly, the baby couldn't see the big scary man waving his arms and chanting at us.

You'll be relieved to hear I got my cake pan, only took me two more stores and three more clerk guides.

Social justice, spiritual healing, and cake pans. Each have their own time and place at the head of the line. And to think, me with all three of these treasures in one day.

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