From the book I’m writing, here’s a chapter. It’s in draft stage, not tidied and completed. There’s stuff I’m trying to explore that is deeper, more serious and intense, stuff about identity and pain and motherhood, but this is not it; rather, here we have a charming tale of the time I nearly pooed my pants at Aldi.
I feel nervous! But I’d love any feedback you guys have. Thanks. x
It’s sad, but years of growing humans who won’t let me sleep are taking their toll on my face. There are lines getting etched in there that I can no longer cover up, and the greys are taking over my head. When I let the roots of my wild brown hair grow out I look like an old witch. Add that to the permanent cranky-frown between my eyebrows and it’s probably just a matter of time until the local children are afraid to pass my driveway in case I run out to hit them with sticks.
Having kids has taught me my place in the evolutionary totem pole. Keith and I have replicated ourselves (and added a spare)and so our usefulness is over. What need now for a fresh face and perky young buttocks? What point trying to trap a mate? Move along now, Mother Nature is clearly telling us. The new generation is here, and your time in the sun has passed.
In lots of ways Keith and I are super happy to be settling into mid-life. I feel like I partied enough as a youngster, prolonging my adolescence well into my twenties, and even (cough, pathetic fist-bump!)my thirties. I’ve done my time interpretive dancing on bar-tops and throwing up into pot plants. I don’t long for more freedom, or miss nights on the town. Life on the couch with a cup of tea, a bag of nuts, Netflix and a kindly physicist to cuddle is as rich as I ever hope to be. I hope I can do this until the curtains come down.
But getting older brings up a lot of fears for me about health. My chosen method of dealing with health problems is denial, and it’s getting harder. Middle age approaches loudly. I see it in the mirror with my creases and lines and I feel it in my creaky old bones. I can hear it coming: tea at 4pm, complaints about young people, a slight whiff of Eau D’Incontinence (say that one out long with a French accent; you’ll be glad you did.) For me, my fears centre around my back and its inorexable decline into crunchy rigidity, but every once in a while I am served a preview of what other joys might be in store as my body falls apart. I get one of those hints this week when I nearly shit my pants at the supermarket.
Normally, an Aldi shopping trip is a low-to-medium grade thrilling event for me. It’s pretty impossible to get out to the real shops with three small kids in tow, so Aldi, with it’s middle aisles of fantasy, is as good as it gets these days.
Depending on the state of the household budget, I sometimes have to put the invisible blinker on. This prevents me from looking left or right and keeps my mind solely on spaghetti bolognaise and blueberry porridge, but today, we’re in a great mood and grabbing our fun where we can. A trip to Town! What ho! How spiffing!
George is in the baby seat, Ted inside the trolley and Ivy wandering at my side. Everybody is in a delightful state of equilibrium, all the more precious for its rarity – all kids sufficiently fed and toileted to give us half an hours time free of the demands of the body. Even the baby! It’s wonderful.
We travel the aisles and I muse aloud.
‘Shall we make some little burgers, kids? This organic mince looks nice. Tacos?’
The baby gurgles, Ted mutters nonsense and Ivy chats to herself about Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Everybody’s happy. I am too, except for a slight gassy pain in my tummy. I try to fart silently (one of the greatest blessings about having children is that there is always somebody to blame for bad smells, which gives parents incredible gastro-intestinal freedom). It helps a little, that release, and I turn my attention back to the shopping and pick up my pace a little.
I take us up the final aisle. Eggs, frozen blueberries, orange juice. I pause at the fish freezer. ‘What do you think about these prawns, Ivy? Are they from one of those anti-biotic Vietnam fish farms, or are they maybe OK?’
Ivy likes being consulted about these things, and she is thoughtful for a moment.
‘Great, I think Mummy,’ she says but I’m not listening. I’ve been suddenly hit with a desperate need to go to the toilet. Specifically, I need to poo. And even more specifically, to poo Right This Second.
I breathe through what appears to be some sort of bum labour pain, and when I can walk, push the trolley at speed towards the checkout. Party’s over. Time to get out of here.
‘Do you have a toilet?’ I ask an assistant as I pass by. He gazes at me with his dead eyes. ‘Across the road, behind the car park,‘ he says.
He may as well be suggesting Uzbekistan. I thank him through gritted teeth, make it to the checkout and start unloading my trolley.
There is an art to shopping at Aldi. Heavy things first. Fragile stuff last. Get it all up on the moving track and then start refining, adjusting and finessing, all before the checkout assistant actually starts ringing up your goods. When that begins, you move immediately to the position behind your trolley and as the products are flung at athletic speed you catch and arrange them, so the eggs are not smashed, the feta is not leaking on the gluten-free olive foccacia and you can create a flat platform on which to rest your Outdoor Room Daybed on the top (you have, of course, failed to block the temptations of the middle aisle.)In silent partnership, you work with the checkout assistant to beat some invisible and utterly pointless speed grocery record.
Today, I am incapable of managing any of these Aldi Athletics. Rather than thinking about the Tetris-style game, I am totally focused on not shitting myslef. It is actually that bad. A vision leaps to mind. A meerkat sticking it’s head out of the cave to look around.
‘Just get to the car’, I tell myself, breathing deeply. ‘You can shit yourself in the privacy of your own car.’
The pain and pressure in my belly is intense. Farting is no longer an option. I can easily blame a bad smell on the children, but the inevitable follow-through would leave physical evidence on my own pants, and it would be much harder to blame that on the baby.
I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead as I throw items into the trolley, willy-nilly. Should I just run? Abandon the shopping? This is tempting, but really, creates more problems for me in the long run. We need nappies. Snacks. Dishwashing liquid. Possibly, specialty adult undergarments for what may be an ongoing health issue. If I don’t pick up these things, the delicate balance of my small household will fall apart and all will be chaos. ‘You can shit in the car’, I remind myself, breathing through this yogic mantra like a Buddhist in intestinal crisis.(What would the Dalai Lama do?) “You can shit in the car. You can shit in the car.’
The baby is whimpering, Teddy is asking for an apple and the supermarket is busy and noisy. But all of these things have faded to a background hum behind the mantra pulsing in my ears.
Don’t. Poo. Your pants.
Don’t. Poo. Your pants.
I am transported to a daydream, a future reality, where I have, somehow, ended up with colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohns disease. My bum, which has before always ticked along, barring the occasional codeine-constipation or gastro episode, really successfully.
I’ve never really had bum or gut problems before. I’ve never appreciated the smooth running of my downstairs lounge. Is this the start, I think in panic. Is it? Is that what’s going to start happening now? Sudden urgent bum crises? Am I going to have to pack adult nappies and spare pants for me too, as well as all the little bastards?
This future, she is grim.
But finally, at least, the shopping is all rung up. It’s a devastating mess in that trolley, but not in my trousers. I pay the lady, who must be wondering what kind of mental demons I am struggling with as I blink and sweat while I work the card machine. I drag the trolley awkwardly out to the car park,legs trotting spastically like a marathon runner in lactic overload.
‘Get in!’ I squeak at the children. Once we are all in the car, I release a glorious, cleansing fart. It’s probably the best fart of my life. I am fully prepared for terrible things to come once I have opened those sphincter gates, but – miracle of miracles! – there is no follow-on effect.
Sitting in this private box, having made it through what seemed with every passing second to be certain humiliation, I feel elated. I still need, desperately, to shit, but I am not going to do it in public. It’s a near-poo experience, I made it through, and both my dignity and my trousers are unsullied. ‘Let the records show that Mummy has avoided middle-aged humiliation for one more day,’ I announce to the children. ‘Let’s go home.’
I don’t always feel in control of my life and my direction as a Mum. I frequently question my decisions. I wish very much that I was better at different parts of the job, and some days all I can see are my failings. But, just like when my mother-in-law said to me that the key was to just keep the children alive until the end of the day, sometimes you have to celebrate the small wins of life.
My name is Rachael, I am a mother of small children, and today, I did not shit my pants in the supermarket.