November 1, 2016

Double-Bag the Guilt, Please.


Every morning I wake up and want to kill myself—and, I’m an optimist.

I’m also a hopeless romantic whose glasses are rose colored, who teaches yoga and raises small people…and chickens. I’m just not a morning person. It’s okay. It burns off like a San Francisco fog.

Most mornings I sit straight up. Not like a one-strap-off-your-shoulder, slow and easy, sultry-screen-siren sort of way. Not like bluebirds-encircling-Snow-White’s-head as morning light dapples through the sensual spaces in my lace curtains casting a soft glow, kinda way. More, like someone living in a war-torn zone way.

Only, I have a mattress and a roof and heat. And, decorative pillows. I look at the one closest to me. It’s bedazzled with sequins and on it are the hand-written words, “Stop. Smile. Breathe. Life is beautiful.”

I despise the pillow in this moment. And, yet, in the next moment the pillow will get me through.

“I don’t know what day it is or who is in my house!” I shout out loud to no one in particular. Unless the chickens can hear me through my bedroom window (but if they can, they haven’t let on yet).

I shout this with one eye open. It’s my one-eye-open time of day. It can last hours and looks somewhat like a deranged pirate. I don’t know why. It’s always been this way. Panicked, I use my open eye to find my old-school alarm clock that looks cool, but is patchy on the waking-you-up bit and attempt to discern what I may have slept through once I figure out what day it is.

It’s the waking and ritual of single parenthood. It’s not a complaint, or the musings of a martyr. It just is.


“Where are the bags!?”

I’m in line at the check out of my local natural grocers. A nymph-like girl named “Rain” sing-songs her question, smiling one of those smiles that looks like a smile but belies real approval. A backhanded compliment. The joke that’s not a joke. 

She shrugs her shoulders in an exaggerated fashion to show just how “joke-y” she is. Rain may have changed her name. She’s far too young for her parents to have been at the real Woodstock. I’m not judging. I don’t ask her what her real name was, but I’d put money on “Michelle.”

She didn’t even have to complete the question. What has become my Pavlovian response sets in as I gaze upon the mere shrug of her weight-of-the-world shoulders. My stomach knots. I begin to sweat through the non-GMO, organic, raw coconut oil I use instead of the actual kind of deodorant that stops you from sweating. I quickly look around to see who heard her. Denver’s still a small town. I shift my feet and feel at once deflated and a little defensive.

She didn’t ask me, “Do you have any bags?” She didn’t politely look around and clearly see that there were none.

Like I mentioned, I fly sans co-pilot in the two-seat Cessna of parenthood. In case you were foggy on it, the two-seater is the one where you live or die by control of the pilot. Life is a tailspin waiting to happen. Like someone just pinned those plastic wings on me for fun. They don’t even use the pins anymore. Too dangerous. They stick them on with tape. I keep looking over my shoulder for the real pilot.

The yoga I teach for a living pays me in smiles, good juju and presumably some form of positive karma. Though, I’m not thinking of it that way because then the universe debits your karma account for thinking about it that way. Let’s just say Vegas odds loosely have me not returning as a jellyfish, one of those centipede things that everyone screams at and then squishes, or a conventional, Monsanto avocado. But, keep that between us.

I’m about to spend every last dollar of my expendable income in this store because I want to feed my small people and me the best food possible. The best of the best. The best of the best is the privilege of those who have roofs and are not actually in a war-torn zone. I buy the organic stuff. And, then, because I’m a girl who likes high stakes, I look through that for that “I’m local” tag.

When you thought it wasn’t possible, I spend even more money. Because, I want to. I want to decrease my family’s odds of cancer and increase their odds of having access to a green park that still experiences all four seasons 30 years from now. You know, because they don’t have to drive the tomatoes so far to make the salsa and stuff.

It’s 6:30 on a Monday night. The small people and I are on our way back from voice lessons and karate. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we are standing in line here at your register, Rain, instead of in line at Chipotle. Like a real, animals-in-a-boat, 40 days of rain miracle. [Pun intended.]

I hear myself lapse into a familiar diatribe of all the ways I use the bags. My shoulders slump with the guilt of greenhouse gases as well as that of a mother who chose divorce and struggles mightily to cook at night. That’s one of the dirty secrets about being divorced. Everyone thinks that it’s a marquee issue like “abandonment” that affects the small people. It’s the food. Two families. Really tired, like all families. Simple math. Double the pizza/take-in Thai equation. The guilt is done when a knife inserted comes out clean.

I explain that we use the brown bags to recycle. And, to compost. And, we pay for the composting, personally. And, yes, I know the city gives you one of those cute little buckets for putting the food inside. We tried that bucket and it turns out I’d have to send a small person out to carry the cute little bucket to the big bucket in the alley every hour and a quarter to really make that work. So, instead we use the brown bags and live with rotting food in the kitchen because they hold more and can go right in the big bucket, which we know because we even read the instructions on composting.

And, we called the city to confirm the instructions. You know, just so we didn’t mess it up. And we fill other bags with our recyclables, which are many. And, did I mention that just yesterday I told the lady at Rite Aid I would not need a plastic bag and pulled my stuff out and handed it back to her. I pulled that stuff right out. With a lot of conviction. There was even a line of people waiting behind me, seething behind that sign about the privacy, but I did it anyway.


We arrive home and I pull out something that is oozy and not easily identified from the fridge to make room for the eight bags of groceries the small people and I are unloading. Well, mostly me. The small man is marching around the living room waxing prolific about the fact that he is not an indentured servant, but a man of free will. I do his future wife a favor and make him unload extra.

It takes me a second, but I realize the oozy thing is a bag of leeks, once pungent and crisp and now viscous. I replace this with the new bag of leeks that I have just purchased. There is apparently a part of me that deeply wishes to make potato-leek soup, I realize, as I glance down and spy the old, unused bag of potatoes in a corner where I must have put them so they don’t grow things.

I glance up at the clock on the stove. 7:38. Damn. My skin is tired. Past the stove clock, I spy approximately a week’s worth of dishes that will need to be moved, cleaned or sacrificed in a traditional, ritual dance until I can start cooking. Cooking the soup, that is.

“I don’t think I can do the soup, guys. I’m so sorry.”

“Can we get sushi!?” The small man is now alert and amenable. Rant over.

“Yeah, yay, sushi, sushi, sushi!” They start some sort of dance that is their performance-art haiku loosely entitled, “Ode to Take-in.”

I glance at the ingredients and then to my phone, and then back to the ingredients. I make a mental note that even just having the ingredients to cook in the house must count for something. Some kind of minimal recognition in the world of raising small people. If we compost last week’s rotting unmade-soup ingredients in the brown bags that Rain gave us, I figure we’re up for a Nobel Prize, even. Environmental science, maybe.

I place the call. They already know our order.

“I’ll have 10 avocado rolls please.” They long ago stopped asking if we meant 10 pieces. With one real vegetarian, one who loses sleep over the meat she eats and another who doesn’t want to hear about how fish have eyes and were meant to swim as she chews, we are easily the most simple and absurd sushi order they receive in a given evening.

Before I can hang up the phone, the sushi arrives. Each night we set the table, light a candle and say a blessing. It’s a rogue, make-it-up-as-you-go blessing. There are no rules and we take turns on who says it. We rotate.

“I said it last night!”

“No, Ella said it last night, it’s your turn.” I note to myself we are totally going to hell.

Everyone is tired. The small man brings his hands to his heart and crosses himself like a Greek, I think. We follow in varying gestures that feel sacred to us.

He lowers his eyes, “Dear Universe, thank you for the food in front of us, the roof over our head and each other…”

I release an audible sigh. Exactly.




Author: Nicole B. Hagg

Image: Imgrum/@acamporalisa

Editor: Travis May

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