A story about kitchen towels. There's no point to this story other than that it's just a story, and maybe one with a small wish for blessing at the end.
On Tuesday morning, the kids and I went to TJ Maxx for a little shopping excursion. In an effort to help T grow in generosity and thoughtful gift-giving, even at the tender, selfish age of three, I've been taking him to stores and letting him pick out gifts for people. We've done this three times with a surprising degree of success: duct-tape and gorilla glue for grandpa, kitchen goods for a house-warming basket, dog treats and toys for a friend who loves her pets. This day, it was another house-warming basket and, after I made my requisite turn through the kids toys and clothes section (we bought an anthology of Curious George books), we made our way to the housewares.
T was completely uncooperative. He whined. He protested by sitting on the floor. He declined to even weigh in on the color of dish towels or a flavor of salt. When the whining reached a crescendo of crying, I decided to give up, buy what we had, and come back another day for more. I put the crying kid in the shopping cart, held the almost-too-heavy-to-hold-for-long other one, and we stood in the checkout line. We moved up to the cash register. I had the cart half-unloaded when T let out a little cry and a mouthful of puke. And another. And another.
He started screaming. I put E on the floor, which prompted her to start screaming. I was catching puke in one hand and holding my wallet in the other. I asked the still-oblivious cashier for a bag. "My son is throwing up!" She looked up and froze. It was probably only for a second, but it felt like a lifetime; it was at least enough time for a few more handfuls of puke to cover me and screamers 1 & 2.
The clerk came to her senses and handed me a bag and then rustled up a tub of sanitizing handwipes. She didn't know what else to do (and neither did I), so while I tried to clean up over the din of two screaming children, she kept scanning my purchases.
What's the protocol here? She's got 3/4 of my items scanned. Do I just give up and bolt? Or do I hold out for what was literally only a minute or two, subjecting other shoppers to the puke and the screams, and just swipe my credit card with my one clean hand and then bolt?
I opted to pay. Got my bags loaded into the cart, got the puke wiped up off the floor as best I could, dragged the shopping cart (and screaming kids) through ankle-deep slush across an entire parking lot, loaded (still screaming) daughter in her car seat. Moved to the other side of the car to deal with the puker, who was also still screaming. He was covered in puke; thankful it was a moderately warm day (by which I mean 30 or 40 degrees outside), I stripped his clothes off of him, strapped him in his seat and wondered if I should run back into the store to buy him clothes or just survive the 5 minute drive home.
"Mom, I'm cold! I'm shivering!"
Aha! Part of our housewarming basket was a set of dish towels. I tore open the package and lined them up on his body, from chest to toe, with one leftover that I gave him and told him to puke into if he needed to throw up again on the way home.
He puked for the rest of the day and into the night, resting his head and wiping his face on those dish towels the whole time. When it was all over the next day, I threw them in the wash with the rest of the dirty linens and clothes that needed to be washed on the "sanitize" setting. And then I folded them up and put them in the house-warming basket with a little giggle.
For someone who is starting a new chapter of life, what better blessing can you wish for them than this: "May your life be full, full enough that these towels will be used again and again, on dishes dirtied by happy diners, on faces smeared with joyful smudges, for heads needing rest after adventures and excitement (both the planned and unplanned kind), on counters messied by hands you have yet to hold. We've started the process in the messiest way; go forth and continue the adventure. Or, be grossed out by the fact that they've been puked on and use them to clean your car. Up to you."