I awake on that morning with dread. I know as I slam down my third cup of strong, strong coffee that I must be on my A-game or else. I won’t see the inside of my house until (probably) late tonight and will not have time to rest or breathe or sit, and I will be making a 100 mile round trip, not counting the miles I’ll be driving from place to place when I get there; and that I must be home in time to feed my family dinner.
It’s El Dia de los Muertos…but not the one in October. It’s the day of my monthly supply run to the ‘big city’ of Roswell.
Today I start early, and it’s not like other days. I’ll be leaving the borders of the ranch, crossing the cattle guard into the wide world, and therefore, I must wear make-up and clean clothes and even jewelry. Today the children must also wear clean clothes. It seems a monumental achievement upon first glance in the mirror.
But I press on. Fueled by caffeine and the adrenaline that arises when you behold your to-do list early in the morning, I set to my work. By 8 a.m. the children are fed, dressed, and almost loaded in the pickup. I have loaded up the trash to take out. I do a flight check. Daiper bag. Snacks. Drinks. Grocery list. Sam’s list. Feed store list. Hardware list. Sunglasses. Money. All the while, I know I forgot something. Oh! yes. I need to get dressed.
Amid the fussing in the backseat and the rattle of the pickup cab (dirt roads inevitably cause this), I pray as we roll out. I ask for guidance, for protection, and most of all, for energy.
When we reach the highway, the children are usually lulled to sleep. (Dirt roads cause this, too.) The radio soothes my nerves for the next hour and a half, interrupted only by a half dozen phone calls, three of which are from my cowboy.
They ring to the tune of: “Since you’re already in town, can you run over and pick up that oxygen and acetylene? can you grab me a couple pairs of gloves? will you run over to the Paul’s Vet Supply and check on that stuff I ordered? I’ve been meaning to go do it but I didn’t wanna make a special trip.” Sure, I say. No problem, honey. But in my head I’ve calculated the time this will take*, not to mention budget adjustments. I mentally gag down the impulse to remind him that these things require unloading and loading two toddlers and taking them inside each establishment…every mom knows what kind of mental sharpness, spiritual peace, and outer calmness this requires.
When I hit the first stop light, I go into a sort of survival trance. As I make my way from one end of town to the other, I attempt to remain human and again, I mutter a prayer. I planned my route based on the lists, and decide to save Wal Mart for last because they’ll be open after 5 p.m.
You may snicker at me by now, saying to yourself that this would be simply the work of the morning for you. True, I am a slow and methodical creature. I know I am not the woman who can whiz through town, whistling as she goes about her errands, who stops at the end to get her nails done to reward herself. But then, many do not understand how much time it takes to do hostage negotiations with one carseat, let alone two.
Although my kids are tough little things, they can’t go without food. So, there’s that. Fast food or walk in and sit, lunch is no walk in the park.
By the time I get to Wal Mart and move as much of the other purchases from the day in the front seat (it’s Roswell, after all), I am dragging. The kids are whining. I pray again. We get inside and have to go back for my grocery list. We get started shopping when a bathroom break is unavoidable for me. So we park it and go behind those doors and re-emerge to this: “Sweetie, are you sure you don’t have to go right now? Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m sure.”
On with the list! I start by sauntering through the store behind the cart, finally producing the magic volume reducers (pacifiers) to prevent the entire store from echoing with their renditions of Marty Robbins. At last I see my list is complete. The basket is mounded high with a month’s worth of groceries. The children are rubbing their eyes and the bags under mine are probably too scary to look at. Like a Titan, I brace myself behind the heavy basket and push it toward the checkout line, where I wait another 45 minutes, by which time the children’s voices have regained their volume and their determination to make their complaints heard is turning heads. That’s when I hear: “Mama, I need to go tee tee.”
Once we have gone we return to the checkout line again, and it is at last our turn. I know we have to get out of here ASAP. I unload the entire basket onto the conveyer belt. The blip…blip…blip…blip… makes me break into a nervous sweat because of the aforementioned budget calculations (and silent prayers are said). When at last I slide the plastic and collect a five-foot-long receipt to begin the trek back to the pickup, I am now running solely on prayer.
It’s almost dark outside and I push the basket around the parking lot two times before remembering where I parked. That’s a tough one to admit but it’s true. This ranch gal can find a bull brushed up in a ten section pasture, but she loses her truck in the Wal Mart parking lot.
The children are strapped in, and provided with snacks and a drink. I breathe a thankful sigh, thinking how I don’t have to unbuckle them and drag them out until we get home. The groceries are sorted and packed into coolers and loaded in the bed. I start the engine relieved that I only have to fuel up before I head home. The phone rings. “Honey, since you’re already there, can you pick up a couple cans of Copenhagen?” I hesitate. I sigh. I say, Sure, babe. And I turn up the radio to keep the kids awake for one last excursion, into the gas station this time. El Dia de los Muertos…at least, that’s how I feel.
The ride home is when the exhaustion sets in. The kids are asleep at the wrong time of evening, and will awaken when we arrive so they can play until 10 p.m. I peer into the dusk, seeing foxes and deer in the edge of the headlights. I must keep my eyes open! The rest of the evening is a blur, except for…
…my cowboy. He greets me with a kiss and a smile. He helps me unload and put away the items that replaced his salary. Dinner. Clean up. Try to keep awake until the little ruffians are ready for bed. Then, wash off what’s left of the make-up, and go to bed.
Folks, I’d rather be boiled in oil. Or be taken captive by a band of Comanches. Or be staked out in the sun on top of an ant bed. Or…just about anything than go to town on the monthly supply run. That’s why I call it “El Dia de los Muertos” because not even coffee can keep me alive until the sun goes down. I’m a goner before even leaving the house!
It’s grace and grace only that carries me and my littles through the day. As much as I dread it, it’s really a day spent relying totally on God at every turn. So in reality, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I pity the folks who run into me in town. Chances are I didn’t even recognize them! I’m darting about in survival mode, usually not realizing that God’s grace could relieve the stress too, if I would let Him. That’s something that I will have to work on. I can’t avoid the ‘day of the dead’, but it doesn’t have to kill me if the life I have in Christ comes to the surface.
*Some of these instances are not typical of my town run. In defense of my cowboy, he tries very hard not to make me run all his errands. Since he has accompanied me on these supply runs before, and since the title of this post is so fitting, he prefers to run his own errands ever since our second kiddo was born. So that’s largely hypothetical, but it does happen…to all of us ranch gals, every now and then. 😉