Home » In Which Reluctant Mother Loses Some Tomatoes and Finds Inspiration

In Which Reluctant Mother Loses Some Tomatoes and Finds Inspiration

The other day, Mac and I trekked to the Safeway to get some tomatoes for a picnic this weekend. We landed in the very busy checkout area with 6 decent-looking large tomatoes, a head of lettuce and a cantaloupe.

We were approached by an employee who suggested we use a self-checkout aisle.

I admitted I had never used the self-checkout when I had produce.

“No problem,” she smiled.  “I’ll show you how to do it.”

Feeling like this was a good opportunity to show Mac it’s positive to embrace new and unfamiliar experiences, I eagerly followed the employee to the self-checkout.

It was quick and painless (likely due to the employee’s assistance).  I would have never been able to key in those produce codes so quickly.

I thought I put all the produce in one bag and stuffed one bag under the stroller.  We made a pit stop at the restroom and headed back into the heat and humidity towards home.  On the way home, I decided to stop at the little park near Canton Square so Mac could stretch his legs.  The park was well-shaded and we sat on a bench sharing some snacks.

After I returned home and got Mac all ready for his nap, I went to the stroller to grab the groceries.  I pulled out a bag containing the lettuce and cantaloupe and placed them in the fridge.

About 20 minutes later, it dawned on me there were still tomatoes in the stroller.  Except when I went to fetch them, THEY WEREN’T THERE!


Shit.  I NEEDED those tomatoes.  Now I was going to have to drag Mac back to the Safeway in all that heat and humidity the next day.  How did I lose all those tomatoes?  HOW?

I mulled over the scenarios but none of them seemed plausible.  It was very puzzling indeed.

Later that evening, Chris and I took Mac to the Park.  On our return trip, I excitedly told Chris about the tomatoes.

“All I can figure is the employee assisting me bagged the tomatoes separately but I didn’t notice and I didn’t pick up the second bag.  Yet, that doesn’t make much sense because I stopped at the restroom after I checked out and then I saw her again.  Had I forgotten a bag of groceries, surely she would have mentioned it to me.  Right?  Don’t you think?  I’m pretty sure I would have noticed if they fell out of the stroller.   They were big tomatoes.  Or maybe not. . .”

Silence from Chris. 

“What if the employee TOOK my tomatoes?  Why would she take my tomatoes?  That’s crazy.  She has an entire produce aisle she could shoplift from, there’s no way she took my paid for produce.  But what if she did?  People are odd sometimes.”

“I don’t know baby,” Chris sighed.  “Are you sure you paid for the tomatoes?”

“Yes.  I definitely paid for the tomatoes.  They cost about $6.00.  Not too bad for as big as they were.  They probably tasted awful, huh?  It’s so hard to find good tomatoes – even when they are IN season, you know?”


“I cannot believe I have to go BACK there again tomorrow for more.  Wait.  Are we getting Mac’s milk when we get to Mom’s house this weekend or are we bringing it with us?  Because if we get it when we arrive, I could just pick up some tomatoes too. But then again, I’ll have to slice them.  I don’t want to arrive and need to prep food on top of all the other chaos. What do you think?”

Sigh.  “I don’t know baby, can’t you just ask your Mom to get them or something?”

“This is a boring you, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Oh no, I am dying to hear all about the lost produce.  It’s fascinating really,” Chris said in a sarcastic tone.

“Never mind.  I’ll just figure it out myself.  I’m sorry I mentioned it at all,” I mumbled, feeling a little hurt.

I am boring.  All day long, I do boring things.  I fold laundry and unload the dishwasher.  I color pictures and clean up messes.  I can’t listen to radio or turn on the TV for fear of waking the kid.  When I try to read, I almost always fall asleep.  I am boring and pathetic.  And I’m not the woman he married.  I no longer have one original or intelligent thought in my head. All I have to talk about are things like:

“Mac learned a new word today.  He thinks it’s hilarious.  What’s the new word you learned today Mac?  Tell Daddy.  You aren’t going to tell Daddy?  Do you need a hint?  Is it TOOTS!?!  Bahahaha.  TOOTS!  TOOTS!  TOOTS!  Hahahaha!  Toots!”

My lip started to quiver a little bit.


I must make him miserable with my stupid chatter.  I’ve become a completely unattractive, dumb, hollow shell of my former self.  And it’s only going to get worse with a second on the way.

I stifled sniffles.

Stupid pregnancy hormones.  

I should be mad at him for being kinda’ rude to me but instead I just feel like stupid, boring, ugly loser.

The next morning, Mac and I braved the humidity and headed back to the grocery.

All the beautiful looking, red ripe tomatoes they had on display the day before were gone!

I weighed my options.  There were the smaller hydroponic kind that are still attached to the vine. . .Grape, Cherry, Roma. . .None of them well-suited for my needs. . .

Mac twitched in the stroller as I debated with myself.

My eyes settled on some very handsome-looking, large heirloom varieties.  Mmmmm. . .They looked wonderful.  The price was hefty.  Nearly three times as much per pound as what I paid the previous day.  Ouch.

What if they suck?

Of course they’re going to suck.  Tomatoes ALWAYS suck.

But so pricey for sucky produce. . .

Look, they’re going to suck.  Accept it.  

You might as well get the ones that LOOK impressive.  At least that way, when everyone eats them and is disappointed, at least you’ll get credit for trying.  If you bring some shitty looking, shitty tasting tomatoes it kinda’ sends the message you don’t give a damn. . .which at this point you don’t. . .but still. . .

Mac started to voice discontent.

I slipped him my iPhone and grabbed 6 heirlooms in a variety of colors.

This time I used a “real” checkout and placed the bag on TOP of the stroller where I could keep a close eye on it.

Mac and I headed towards the Park.

After a few blocks, we passed a lady sitting outside her home.  I smiled at her.  “Hello.”

“Back in my day, we didn’t have stuff like that,” she said gesturing towards the iPhone.

“I KNOW,” I exclaimed, “It really comes in handy when I need to occupy him in a pinch.  I’m always in awe wondering how parents managed before all this technology.”

“Well,” she said, rising, “I’m 80.  I’ve seen it all.  I was born in this house – one of seven.  I raised my family in this house.  I remember when the street car came up this street and there were gas lights instead of electricity.”  (She was using her cane like a giant extension of her arm to gesture at various landmarks.  It made me chuckle.)

Mac was being quiet, so I let her go.

“I have photos you know.  Lots of photos showing how the neighborhood used to look.  You could take them with you and show your Husband if you’d like.”

This woman was just going to loan out her photos?  Just like that?

“Oh, I’d LOVE to see your photos!” I exclaimed.

She went into the house and returned with an album.  I eagerly opened it and asked her about the photos.

There in black and white was the story of her life.

She told me how the block that contains all new rowhomes used to be occupied by gigantic gas tanks and during WWII, Military Policy patrolled the area because if “the enemy” targeted those gas tanks, it would have caused and explosion “the whole way into Dundalk.”

There were photos of her in glamorous peep-toe shoes and furs.  “Oh, I owned may furs.  One of them was stolen once when I went to the bar down the street.”

Album - Lil

Photos of her parents.  Her siblings.  Her neighbors.  “Her?  She lived next door.  She just died two weeks ago.  Her?  I set her up with a boy and they got married!  Never been on a date in her life before that one.  She was real close to her Mother.  You know the type?”

First communions.  Playing in washtubs in the back yard in the summer heat.  Photos of Canton Square when there was an actual market there.

And as I flipped more pages, photos of her own daughter too.

“We all have the same name.  Julia Lily.  My mother, me, and my daughter.  But I go by Lil because my Mother was Polish and couldn’t pronounce Julia properly.”

I could have visited with her much longer.  She was adorable.  And fascinating.

“You know, all these young people, they come in and want to dig out the basements, but that’s stupid because then their basements flood and they get mold and then they need a sump pump.  Better to leave them alone.  This guy next door?  His steps aren’t right.  They put the wrong marble slab on the top.  It should be on the bottom.  See?  I didn’t notice them do it or else I would have told them.  I watch everything, you know.  Keeps me busy.  Keeps me feeling young.  I took some pictures the other day of the garage in back of the house.  It’s been there for years but it’s going to be demolished in the next few. . .It’s an interesting building.  Been there a long time.”

By noon, Mac had enough.  He was covered in spilled raisins and milk.  I had to excuse myself before he completely lost it.  But I very carefully tucked the photo album in the bottom of the stroller.  I WOULD have something interesting to share with Chris that night.

And as I walked Mac to the Park, I though about Lil.  She wasn’t boring, or stupid, or a loser.  She was a sharp beautiful 80-year old woman. . .also a sister, daughter, wife and mother.  She found interesting things everyday and documented them with photos.

And thank goodness she was generous enough to share them. . .because it gave me hope that maybe I could be like Lil someday too.

I smiled at the way the universe seems to work.  Had I not lost those tomatoes, I never would have felt like a loser. . .OR met Lil, who helped me realize I’m not.

When we returned home from the Park, Mac and I found a huge pile of cat puke on the kitchen floor.  While I scurried to clean it up, Mac proceeded to stomp on it and then went slipping across the wood floor wiping out and bumping his head on the stove.

(He wasn’t hurt.)

I laughed and snapped a picture.  Something else to tell Chris about this evening.

cat barf

I hoped Lil would approve.










4 Responses to “In Which Reluctant Mother Loses Some Tomatoes and Finds Inspiration”

  1. What a cool unexpected experience to learn about a woman with so much history. She’d be proud of your photo lol

    I’m just jealous that you can walk to so many places and get out and about so easily. I work full time and when I have rare down days with the kids, would love to be able to walk without jumping in a car for everything we want to do!

    • admin says:

      Being able to walk is definitely a perk of our location. They are building some new retail maybe half a mile away – including a TARGET and I CANNOT WAIT until I can walk to Target instead of having to drive 15 or 20 minutes. My Husband of course, is scared to death to have a Target located so close to the house. Ha!

  2. Rick says:

    Loved the story! It can be so funny how certain events happen because of other events. I believe I remember a movie where just the changing of one event changed the person’ whole life.