I could never understand the logic of driving an hour away for a triple coupon super sale. Yeah, you can get three times the discount value on your clip-out newspaper coupons, but what about the gas you guzzled to get to and from that supermarket on, um, Mars?
It was a two-hour round trip, plus an hour shopping, adding up to three hours in adult land, but in kid world three hours on a Sunday afternoon was like giving up your right kidney!
For mom, a triple coupon trip meant something more then cheap groceries; it was her call to the great race, the Olympics inside her head. A bronze medal meant cheap groceries. Any piddly mom could do that, but mom was going after the gold medal, Gold Medal Flour that is at three times the 50 cents off meant the $1.50 bag of flour was free.
But even free wasn't enough for "the big H" the name my sister and I gave Harriet, my mother; no, she wanted more.
It happened one Sunday afternoon in June, when, after filling up three jumbo carts with groceries, she descended, grumpy children in tow, to inundate the blinking, horrified cashier with her six-inch thick pile of coupons. After adding up the discount of the coupons and triple-ing the value, then deducting that figure from the grocery total, which had been enough to purchase a small island in the Pacific, the cashier's face turned a shade of crimson I've only ever seen on strawberry-flavored ice pop.
The Pathmark actually owed mom money. The dumbfounded cashier called the manager over who stood there, scratching his head.
Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the Olympic games music signaling the medal ceremony.
"This has just never happened before," he said leafing through the biblical pile of coupons.
He looked at the receipt, which curled, down his arm and down his leg, touching the floor. Reluctantly, he opened the cash register and handed my mother $12.28.
"Your, umm... refund? Maam," he said.
"Thank you!" my mom cooed, beaming in delight.
The money didn't catch the light or hang from a necklace, but as mom walked out of the store, ordering her three kids to push the three carts ahead of her, she walked tall -- strutted, I might even say. I could almost hear the applause. She looked back at the elderly woman with her pathetic pile of two dozen or so coupons and smiled.
The gold must always be compassionate to the bronze.
We climbed into the red Volare (the showroom car, came at a huge discount) and headed home.
Mom celebrated her victory by slugging Diet Rite Cola with her left arm, holding the wheel with her right. If you've ever tried to hold a three-liter bottle of cola in one hand, you'll know this was a rare talent, but not medal-worthy.
She looked at her miserable children staring out the window. The words that came out of her mouth next were magical, musical and wondrous: "I don't have any coupons, but would you like to go to Burger King?"
"Yes, yes, yes!" I yelled, clapping my hands.
"What?" my sister asked, coming out of her trance.
"Burger King?" my brother whispered, afraid to say it too loud in case mom changed her mind.
We kept Kosher or Mom's special blend of it. We weren't allowed to have the burgers, but were allowed to gorge ourselves on any non-meat Burger King item.
Mom ordered us fried fish sandwiches, fries and extra large sodas. We sat outside on a picnic table to devour our FULL PRICE meal. The gooey mayo, ketchup combo I'd created dripped down my face and mom laughed as she sopped it up with her napkin.
For one fleeting moment in time, it was almost like we were a normal family! But as the breeze picked up and goose pimples began to form on my arms, mom reached over and stroked my face.
"Shana Madelah.... make your mother happy, go back and get me a few handfuls each of ketchup and mustard. A nice bundle of napkins would be nice too."
"Yes mom," I said my fish fry high melting around my feet.
I had it easy. She sent my brother and sister to steal the toiler paper.