We go to Target. It is what we do.
My adult son who works practically all the time and rarely shows up for a planned dinner or excursion because he gets called in at the last minute to cover someone’s shift at the gym will almost always agree to do a Target run with me.
We get a cart. It is wet from the rain. I push the cart past women’s clothes because I already have too many clothes but the way the clothes look on the mannequins makes me want to buy more. We hurry to the men’s clothes. My son wants a black long sleeve t-shirt but without a pocket. There are no such shirts so he buys black thermal underwear instead. While we look for the black long-sleeved t-shirt, we talk about his work which is paid and my work which is not. I bring him up to date on the current controversy regarding homeless people and, when I describe it, it seems unimportant. My son looks at me like ‘why is this an issue?’ He is cut off from this particular well of tension. His shrug turns my stress down a hundred degrees.
He tries on two winter jackets – a puffy red one and a denim one lined with thick fleece. He decides on the denim one after I tell him it looks good. “Do you want to find a mirror?” I ask. “No,” he says, “I trust your eyes.” This is a beautiful thing to have someone say to you, I realize that right away, but I make nothing of it, just nod and move to electronics.
He says he needs a new remote control but decides against looking. I get diverted by the small book section, wanting to buy every book because, in the same way I buy wine, I like their covers. I take a long time with the books but decide to buy nothing. Down the aisle, my son is leaning on the wet cart looking at his phone. He looks up when I approach and we go to food.
I watch him stock up on packaged rice and noodle dishes. When he is at one end of the cereal aisle and I am at the other, I tell him loudly that his niece has gotten her braces off. We talk to each other like we are in the kitchen in the house where he grew up except we are near other people who wonder about us and our random pieces of conversation.
He buys no vegetables. Or fruit. It used to be my place to nudge him about this but it isn’t anymore. He may die from too much meat and starch but I’ve given that job away, left it on the curb with all the other judgments and criticism and instruction in healthful living. I am an old woman who eats too much chocolate and drinks too much wine, red, mind you, but wine in boxes nonetheless.
At the checkout, we each unload our half of the wet cart. When he pays for his half, I see that his wallet is falling apart, it’s thin like paper, and I wonder how a son of mine came to have such a worn, flimsy wallet. I don’t know everything about him anymore, haven’t for years, but once long ago, he fell asleep on my chest and I smoothed his curly black hair with my hands and knew I was the luckiest person on earth to have him as my son.
I drop him off at his apartment. He unloads his Target bags and comes back to the car window. “Always good to do Target with you, Ma.” I laugh. I have a jar of olives pickled with rosemary and basil, pumpkin and white chocolate cookies, a gallon of milk, and twelve rolls of toilet paper. It was, as they say, a most excellent Target run.