Turned to custard

The other day I thought it would be a good idea to take Master Five and Miss Eight Months to the chemist to pick up a prescription. Now, I am not very good at wrangling children in public, so I tend to avoid the whole idea of taking my small fry to places where they need to behave and NOT TOUCH ANYTHING until they are old enough to stay put when I tell them to. So this outing was a big deal.

And it went fabulously. I got a park right outside the door, Master Five stood patiently on the footpath while I manoeuvred his baby sister into her pram, we got into the chemist and allllllll the way to the back by the prescription counter without incident, Master Five sat patiently on the chair next to a gracious elderly lady who didn’t glare or look at him suspiciously, and Miss Eight Months didn’t cry. The prescription was handed over, and we made it out of there without incident. I was high as a kite and swollen with pride at my major accomplishment.

So inflated was my ego that I thought I might take us to the supermarket nearby for a custard square — a Denheath Custard Square, to be exact. Because they are the best. They aren’t paying me to say that. They should. In custard squares. Anyway, we tootled down the road and into the supermarket carpark, and I even found a parent park near the entrance. All good so far.

And then we got out of the car.

Master Five would not stay put, even when I grabbed his hand and placed it on the door handle and told him to stay right there and not move a muscle. He moved all his muscles in every direction. Miss Eight months threw up all over her pram as soon as I placed her in it. The dad in the next spot over, gently fitting his snap-and-go wheels on his sleeping newborn baby’s capsule, looked at us askance. But I was undeterred.

Into the supermarket we went. Master Five wanted an apple to munch on, but this wasn’t one of those supermarkets with the free fruit for kids, and I had to hear about it all the way to the deli section where the Denheath Custard Squares are usually located, with a halo of light surrounding them. I pushed the pram with Miss Eight Months, strategically covered with a muslin to hide the worst of the spit-up, while Master Five whinged beside me. We got to the deli and… No custard squares. Not a one.

So we continued around the corner to the bakery section, where Miss Eight Months started making vomitous noises once more, and Master Five spotted a cake with Minions on it that he desperately wanted, even though the cake said “Happy Birthday” on it and his birthday isn’t until November. There is no reasoning with a five-year-old who doesn’t quite understand how months work, who insisted we could take the cake home and “save it” for his birthday. Then he accidentally stepped on the foot of an elderly lady with one of those wheeled walking frames with a seat on it. She was not gracious or patient. She growled him. He started to cry.

Sigh. No magical Denheath Custard Squares in the bakery section, either. I asked a staff member behind a display and she waved vaguely at the case of baked goods which contained all manner of expensive delicacies. Miss Eight Months threw up again, then started crying.

Finally I spotted what looked like a custard square, and asked the staff member to grab one for me while I dealt with two crying children. She handed it to me in a tiny container with a giant sticker slapped on top telling me it cost $4.50. That sounded about right – I know, it’s an expensive treat, but by this time I really needed it — did I mention I stress-eat? – so I grabbed it and raced to the checkout area, which was busy, it being 11am on a Friday and all of the elderly residents of the neighbourhood doing their shopping at once.

So we went to the self-checkout queue. Now, you may have seen a meme which has bad words in it, summing up the experience of using the supermarket self-checkout in six words: “IT’S IN THE BROTHERTRUCKING BAGGING AREA”, with “BROTHERTRUCKING” replaced with, well, you can guess. And that was our experience. My custard square wouldn’t scan. Then it scanned but it wasn’t registering in the bagging area. I lifted it and moved it and shifted it like the planchette on a Ouija Board, but no dice. (I bet you didn’t know that little thing you use with a Ouija Board is called a planchette. Now you can toss that factoid into a conversation and impress someone. You’re welcome.)

A staff member had to come scan a card and press buttons and by this time, the crying of my children had reached “only heard by dogs” pitch and I wanted to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible, as People Were Staring. Finally got the custard square paid for and hoofed it out the door, where of course it was raining cats and dogs, which at least washed the vomit off of Miss Eight Months’s pram.

We got to the car, I wrestled kids into seats and pram into boot, and we went home. But I wasn’t defeated. Not yet.

No, defeat didn’t come until an hour later, when Miss Eight Months was down for a nap, Master Five was happily colouring, and I sat down with a fork and my custard square. Which I realised, as soon as I opened the lid of the container, was not, in fact, a Denheath Custard Square, but a poor supermarket imitation which was soggy on top and rubbery inside.

Then it was my turn to cry, and I put my head down on the table and shed a tear or two, thinking of my long-lost Denheath Custard Square and the trouble I’d been to in order to secure one. After a few moments, Master Five put down his colouring pencils and came over to pat my back.

“It’s okay, Mummy,” he said. “But I do think we should have got that Minion cake.”

Katherine Granich

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