I am walking into Costco on a Saturday morning, 20 minutes after it opens.
I have a bedheaded toddler strapped into the cart.
He is drinking a hot chocolate.
He has a hot chocolate Spaniard beard crust around his mouth.
My husband walks next to me. He is wearing jeans, and a baby.
We have a list.
We have lattes.
We are them.
We are they.
We are a young, white, middle-class, Seattle family of four.
It it one of those moments when I am suddenly, inescapably aware of exactly who and what the world thinks I am.
The world is right.
I am a wife and mother who likes to buy in bulk and eat free samples. Guilty as charged.
I'm surprised by the cocktail of feelings that I have to sort through at this moment of clarity.
I feel happy, that I fit so nicely into this place. It's a good place to be. I'd rather fit here than in a North Korean gulag, for example. Or Wal-Mart. Or Abercrombie and Fitch.
I feel embarrassed, that my happiness can be bought for the price of a $55 Costco membership. That I think it's funny, how Ryan, Chicken, Buster, and I are straight out of central casting.
I feel comforted, that I am a part of the pack.
I feel sad, that I am content to run with the pack over flat, dull, already-packed-down ground.
I feel furtive, like I'm hiding a secret past. There was a lot more eye makeup and quite a bit more sleeping in, all those years ago. I was about to say there was more dancing and more flashing back then, but that's a lie. I dance and pull my boobs out way more now. It's just at Gymboree, rather than in the French Quarter.
I feel afraid, that I'm not a surprise.
That I'm not a mystery.
That my life is predictable. Small.
That I'm just... regular. A regular mom who can lay claim to more than half of the stereotypical Seattle mom signifiers out there.
That because I'm so fully immersed in this specific population, I don't have the capacity for original thought anymore.
That everything I'm thinking and saying has already been thought and said, and their only value is in our shared agreement.
"I love pita chips too!"
I'm having all of the feelings. And then I see the first sample cart - spinach and artichoke dip. Score.
I wheel my cart up and press in alongside a young Asian couple, an angry-looking retiree, a family of five, and two buddy dude-bros in Lulu sweatshirts and Nike shorts.
I don't think less of these people because I can categorize them. I just think, "hi! I think I might know a little about you. You probably know a little about me, too."
We're all just here, cruising for deep discounts and free dip.
None of us knew how badly we wanted spinach and artichoke dip until it was here, steaming up the walls of single-serve plastic cups and beckoning us all, without prejudice. We all come together and break bread, and share the experience of warm, cheesy, free artichoke dip.
I put a box in my cart.
So does the dude-bro.
So does the other mom. We make eye contact. We make the exact same face - Huh! Can you believe how good that was! I am SURPRISED AND IMPRESSED by how good that was!
And it seems to me that it's ok - ain't nothing new under the sun. We're all members of one pack or another. I'm in the mom-pack and the performer-pack, the I-used-to-live-in-Brooklyn-pack and the blogger-pack. And on this morning, I am in the free-dip-pack.
It's a good place to be.