I can't lie. I am a self proclaimed Costco snob. I drive about 25 minutes out of my way and pay a toll to the nearest Costco, straight past the other warehouse stores. It's true. I can always count on finding an enormous amount of everything I need and sometimes a few enormous amounts of things I don't need. Who can resist the bargains? I can't. I absolutely need 10,000 tablets of the Kirkland brand Tylenol. Have you had their rotisserie chicken? Oh my goodness, it's the best. Trust me. The membership is worth it for that one item every week alone.
I always have my children with me. And like every mother in the world, there are times when I can absolutely pull my hair out. My three-nager is the one screaming on the floor...you can hear the echos of his earth shattering "trauma" throughout the entire warehouse. All the while, my daughter is dancing and twirling in an alternate reality a million miles from me- the one grounded here in reality. I'm trying to grab their delicious organic tortilla chips and the perfect cantina style salsa I can't live without and they are trying to lick raw chicken.
It has been a personal mission of mine to document us more out in the world instead of so much in our "comfort zone". I happened to have my gear with me this past week on one of the busiest shopping days of the month. Payday. Bravely, I strapped my camera to me, took a deep breath, grabbed the kids hands, and began the treacherous trek across the insanity that happens to be the Costco parking lot. I fumbled for my membership card amidst my 1,000 other cards and prayed for a good buggy as we entered that glorious (yet slightly intimidating) warehouse. And just like clockwork, the kids personalities came out in full force.
She began singing and twirling and he suddenly became ravenously hungry and needed a snack (or a slice of pizza) immediately. And they both had to potty.
Anyways, about 50 feet into the entrance I remembered my mission. I put my "mom hat" aside, if you will, and put on my "photographer" hat. I flipped the switch. I began watching them, trying to visualize the world through their eyes. Costco must be the biggest place on Earth to them. Filled with delicious samples and snacks. How can they take a mundane task like grocery shopping (on payday) and have fun? Like, actual fun? People must've thought I was crazy, following my kids around with an gigantic camera and taking seemingly meaningless pictures.
But here's where it gets insanely real. This is where the truth bomb was dropped on me and where I was moved to tears. An elderly lady was in front of us in a checkout line that seemed endless. She looked at my fearless, light hearted children who were dancing and singing and playing with a plastic bag (yes, a plastic bag...like the kind you put raw meat in); and she smiled. A great, big, ear to ear smile. She played the bag game with them. And she laughed. And that's when she told me how precious they were and for me to remember times like these. I got a lump in my throat and could only vigorously nod. She's right, you know. You know it as well as I do. We will never get back that day. We will never get back that particular adventure in Costco. How important is it to truly remember these times and not focus on the cookie cutter vision of what we want our trip to Costco to be? It took me switching into photographer mode to truly see the beauty in it.
She was trying to tell me to soak this up. Soak up these memories and not to stress the small stuff. Let them be children, let them be magical and carefree. These aren't meaningless photographs and video clips to me. I've preserved them for generations to come. So that when I am watching my grandchildren play, I can pull out the album that houses these memories and tell the story of the day we went to Costco. I'm sure it will spark my dusty and faded memory. I'm sure I will remember how it felt when they hugged me with those little arms, how frustrating, humbling, and amazing motherhood can be in a span of 1 whole minute. What a rollercoaster. So that when my children come to me thinking that they are failing as parents and completely screwing their kids up, I can pull out these images and show them the beauty in it all. I can show them that it's all just a part of this amazing journey of life.
I'll never forget this woman and the lesson that was taught to me. Take it all in stride mamas, it's a beautiful ride we are on.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, your adventures grocery shopping with your kids. Does seeing the beauty and innocence of times like these help you through the frustrating ones? Have you ever gotten some unexpected words of encouragement from a stranger?
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Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.