She gives me a list. On that list are the very specific items that she needs to cook a very tasty and nutritious meal for the evening.

“Make sure you get this brand because the other brand doesn’t quite taste right in this dish. I need a full head of lettuce, a tomato and this cut of meat. If the bread looks too brown on top don’t get it. You also need to make sure that the fruits and vegetables you get are firm not soft or it will go bad faster. Got it?”

“Got it!”

I head to the grocery store with her list and the scientific formula’s Super Mom gave me as I walked out the door bouncing around in my empty head when suddenly, as I walk through the grocery store doors I have a panic attack. I realize as I walk through the produce section and scan the array of vegetables and fruits that my ‘play sheet’ is now a foreign language and Super Mom has called an audible at the line and I have no clue if I’m supposed to line up in the slot or block the linebacker on a 33-Speed Option.

As the automatic mist-sprinklers click on to keep the celery, lettuce and miscellaneous greens fresh and crisp I break out into a cold sweat. Did she want the tomatoes ‘fresh’ or ‘firm’? I know it was an f-word but right now the appropriate one escapes me. I hurriedly grab one that still looks a bit green. A little unripe means that its still fresh right?

I saunter down the ‘Baking’ aisle to find a bag of peanut butter chips for cookies and halfway down the aisle it dawns on me that there are all kinds of chips and even though it says peanut butter on my play sheet my eyes are rolling into the back of my head because there are dozens of peanut butter chip types and brands and colors. WTH?

I settle on the bag with the prettiest packaging because Super Mom likes cute stuff and she had to have been drawn to this package just like I was when my eyes adjusted and my legs stopped wobbling. Satisfied, I turn my attention to the meat section, confident that this was one play that I had practiced many times before with Super Mom running the drill by my side. How many ways can you cut a chicken, right?

There’s a bold lilt in my step as I navigate my cart between two kids fighting over what type of ice cream to get and a guy who is sampling potato chips even though there is not a sampling station anywhere and he hasn’t purchased the large bag of Ruffles in his hand. Mother’s give me a strange look and I can see it in their eyes. Some of them are saying, ‘Poor stupid oaf. His wife suckered him into getting groceries and he doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into.’ I also see the words ‘Future psychiatric ward patient’ in there somewhere. As I pass the refrigerated items section I see my face in the reflection and it’s crying, ‘HELP!’

Finally I locate the chicken and my heart drops. In front of me is an entire section of chicken, each package labeled differently, cut differently and again my mind is rewinding my conversation with Super Mom and the only thing that I can recall are my parting words to her – ‘Got it!’

Why was I so confident when I responded? Why didn’t I play back the message to her before I walked out the door? Why wasn’t I listening when she gave me the info? Oh that’s right, when she was talking to me I was thinking about football and all the games that I was going to watch on TV while eating my fried chicken, sipping my caffeine and choking down my salad.

Disgusted, I grab a package of chicken that I think says ‘whole chicken’ but it may as well say ‘you’re an idiot and you’re going to get fried alongside this chicken,’ because I know that Super Mom is going to peck my eyes out when I show up with my bags of ‘none of this is what I wanted.’

As I stand there in the checkout line it feels like every mother in the store is boring a huge whole into the back of my head with their sympathetic stares. In front of me there’s a kid sitting in a grocery cart who looks as if a snot bomb exploded on his face. Normally I would chuckle and wonder what kind of mom lets her kid come to the store looking like that, but even this cannot derail the feeling that I have totally screwed this up again.

I finish checking out my ‘stuff’ and the checkout girl wishes me a good evening in a cheerful voice that makes me want to launch myself over the counter and slap the layers of makeup off her face but I don’t, because grocery shopping is not a contact sport even though it is giving me brain damage after the multiple blows to my ego.

With all of my confidence gone, my shoulders sagging and my mind in a twist I load my groceries into the car, hop into the drivers seat and head home. I think of all the excuses I can give Super Mom for foiling her dinner plans and none of them sound very promising. But as I pull up into the driveway and grab the plastic bags out of the trunk of my car an idea starts to formulate in my ‘devious dad mind’. Yes! Yes! This might work.

The confidence is back in my step by the time I make it through the threshold into our lovely little abode and before I’ve shut the door Super Mom is on me. “Did you get everything I specifically asked for?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I did. But you know what? Why are you cooking after a long hard day of being a mother, a wife, a homemaker and a working mom? Let’s dump all this stuff and go get some pizza and watch some football.” Did that come out whiny and as pathetic as I thought it sounded? I hope not.

I can see the wheels turning in Super Mom’s head and before my eyes she appears to be completely exhausted.

“You know what? You’re right. Let’s get some pizza and forget about all this stuff.”

I turn away so that she cannot see my wicked smile. Yes! Catastrophe averted. All is well on the home front and my ineptitude as a grocery shopper remains a secret. That is, until Super Mom wants to make those cookies or fry that chicken.

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