A Better Country: 1

Before you think I tricked you into reading a mom blog, rest assured this is actually the beginning of the book. I had to start somewhere, ok? Why not in a pit of despair at the grocery store? I promise it’s going somewhere…well, maybe not good, but mildly interesting?

photo by Bailey Browne

Where is the soy sauce?

I have searched the entire the grocery store. I have looked in the sauce aisle. I have looked in the international foods aisle. I have returned to the sauce aisle, straining my eyes to read every single letter on every single bottle of sauce. I have doubled back to the international foods aisle and repeated the fruitless exercise.

I have mastered an increasingly stagnant rotation of about 4.5 dinner meals. Unfortunately, there are seven nights in a week.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom has made me hate food. I hate the food I make. I hate that I have to make it and feed it to others three times a day, plus snacks. If I could only eat once a day and convince my family to do the same, my life would be like Beyonce’s. Going out to eat is like a trip to Shangri-La, and I’ve been going to Shangri-La way too much.

I’m trying to do the right thing here – make a new recipe that’s healthy and even includes vegetables. Branch out into new “exotic” ingredients. So why can’t the soy sauce be in a logical location? Why can’t I be rewarded for my good mothering with an easy breezy shopping experience? Why does it have to be so difficult? Why does everything have to be so difficult?

How am I supposed to clean bodily fluids, plan and provide healthy and nutritious meals, keep my house from becoming a hoarder’s paradise, wake to screams multiple times a night, have severely restricted adult interaction, talk about child development ad nauseam, wash infinite Kilimanjaros of laundry, find this enigmatic soy sauce, and pretend I’m living the blessed life?

As I wander aimlessly through the aisles, hung up on this single but crucial ingredient that eludes me, I feel the onset of angry tears. I dig my phone out of my purse overflowing with junk and fire off a text to a friend I grew up with, S: Why is it so hard to find freakin soy sauce in the grocery store?!?! I’m sick of trying to be the healthy mom!”

S responds: Haha. Look how far you’ve come in life.

I think back to my days as a newspaper reporter covering the most expensive and opulent community in Atlanta. I remember gala events where I wore long gowns and ate $200 a plate dinners. I remember my giggly interviews with the upper echelon of the party planning industry discussing the glimmering decor. I remember attending fashion shows in the middle of the workday while guzzling white wine. I remember visiting notable people at their spectacular mansions to get the details of their stories, whether they were opening new businesses or launching nonprofits.

Now I am a hollowed-out shell of my former self, searching for soy sauce in a grocery store to make a meal that will probably taste like it’s been doused in gasoline, as is my track record. At times my heinous meals have literally reduced my children to tears. I am unwashed, anonymous, dull, and unimportant. I am everything I had spent my life trying not to be.

S texts: Maybe you should give up?

I wander to the freezer aisle and stare inside. I am simultaneously so angry and despondent I have to stop myself from grabbing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, sitting down on the floor and tearing into it. I imagine shoveling chunks of cookie dough into my face through tears. It’s happened before, albeit never in a public place.

I decide it’s time to do my least favorite thing on earth; ask an employee for help. I am the person who avoids the chatty cashier that demands I relive the details of my dull day like the ebola virus. In fact, when I am forced to talk to strangers, it usually makes me feel like I am coming down with the ebola virus.

I text S back: I’m about to ask a stranger for help. Maybe this is rock bottom.

It never is, she replies. Just try not to embarrass yourself.

“Excuse me,” I say to an employee stocking shelves, abandoning myself to this descent into the seventh layer of hell. “Could you please tell me where the soy sauce is?” Because it’s not in any place that makes any sort of logical sense in this dimension.

“International foods aisle,” he replies.

I angrily stomp back through the path I had walked 1.5 billion times. One last time, I think to myself. I will check one last time, then I will just stop by Wendy’s on the way home. I will never try to make a responsible choice again. Frosties are better than responsible choices.

I looked one last time, and by some untold wizardry, there it was.

It had always been there, even when I was convinced it wasn’t.


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