The early hour

The Seckel Pear. Just a tad bigger than a ping pong ball.

The Seckel Pear. Just a tad bigger than a ping pong ball.

Yesterday morning my phone alarm rudely awoke me at 5:30 AM. I closed my eyes tightly and let out two brief sobs. Then I made three deals with myself about how I could conceivably get up later and still accomplish the day's goals. And then I got up -- because the deal-making means I was already pretty much awake.

In the darkness of my bedroom I put on jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a hoodie. I grabbed a pair of socks and my tennis shoes and joined the dog in the living room. She barely looked up. 

Keys, purse, list . . . and I was out the door into the freezing cold AND RAIN. The truck's exterior temp read 39. I sobbed three more times, quickly, and then backed out of the driveway. By the time I'd driven the four miles to the grocery store I'd pulled myself together. 

Have you ever grocery shopped at 5:45 AM? It's revelatory. It's like someone opened the store JUST for YOU. A private showing. The person manning the in-store Starbucks looks at you expectantly. There's no line! The aisles are empty, save for the stockers, who are pulling out armfuls of fresh product, again, JUST for YOU. The lights are dimmed. The music plays a little louder than usual. It's optimal shopping conditions -- take my word for it.

So there I was -- me and my Thanksgiving list -- and thousands and thousands of sparkling bottles and cans and packages. I hemmed and hawed at the produce. I sat my cart square in the middle of the apples and oranges and walked clear over to get the green bell pepper I'd forgot on my first pass through. I carefully stacked the items in my cart for maximum space allowance. I even bought a bag full of Seckel Pears to use for placecard holders. Seckel Pears! What even are those?

For a full hour I moved from aisle to aisle. Two turkeys, four cans of pumpkin (because I have a fear of a pumpkin shortage), bacon, canned cranberry sauce (that's the way I like it), cream cheese, feta, eggs, panko . . . you name it. The cart piled higher and higher. I had pick of the litter. The cream of the crop. There might have been singing in the aisles.

After I was done shopping I made my way to the bank of registers. Deserted. A lone bag boy came sliding down the polished floor, telling me someone would be there to check me out on 12. No lines guys! Did you read that? No lines. Not another soul. After a slight problem finding a code for Seckel Pears, I abandoned my kingdom, heading home with my bounty. I'd warned Sterling the night before that I was going to wake him up and get his help with the carrying in and the putting away. But I didn't. Through the freezing drizzle, I lugged it all inside, strangling the life blood out of my arms with those vile plastic handles. I unloaded the sacks, making piles of produce, stacks of cans, sections for dairy and breads and baking ingredients. Then one by one (or sometimes three by three) I put everything away. Two turkeys in the refrigerator in the garage. The makings for cornbread next to the mixer. A few new spice bottles slotted into ABC order. No room in the produce drawers for the brussel sprouts or romaine lettuce.

And then, suddenly, the real day began. Exercise (can you even believe it?). Breakfast. Trip to the pediatrician. Back to start some cooking. People need lunch. And dinner. Three loads of dishes. Someone left wet laundry in the washer.

Guys, this is Thanksgiving. It's going to be hectic. My legs are already tired from standing too long on the kitchen tile. But even amidst the tired and the joy and the frustration and laughter, I did dance down the grocery aisles. And that's something.