These days, if I see a woman with her rear-end sticking out of a large trash can and her head and arms fully immersed in filth, I hardly bat an eye. Yep, I think to myself, she’s a mom and she’s on a mission.
In this case, it was a Spiderman action figure her young son had accidentally dropped in the trash. I’m sorry to say he could not be retrieved. It was a sad moment for superheroes everywhere.
If you’re a mom, you’ve likely spent some time dumpster diving. I never really thought I’d be the kind of person who literally digs through the trash of others, and yet, after nine years of motherhood, I’m learning that I never really thought I’d do a lot of things which I do quite regularly.
This happened to me most recently at Costco a couple weeks ago. Joyfully full on samples, my daughter went to a trash can to throw away her trash. Moments later, she came back in tears because her plastic bracelet had also accidentally ended up in the trash as well.
This was a travesty in her four-year-old world. The universe really might cease to exist if that precious treasure of a bracelet was not rescued from the depths of the trashcan.
She looked at me expectantly. What was I going to do about it? Her eyes seemed to burn into my very soul, trying to determine if I was the kind of mother who would make her proud or the kind of mother who would go down in the books as worst mommy ever.
I took the high road, of course. Anything for my child, right?
“Babe, I’m really sorry, but you have lots of bracelets at home.” (Trust me on this one…three girls at my house means the things just magically appear and multiply.)
“No, Mommy, this one is really special! We have to get it back! I NEED IT!! PLEASE, OH, PLEASE!!” The situation was quickly growing volatile and unstable. I could see where this one was headed and frankly did not have the energy to pry her off a nasty trash can or explain to a manager why my child was laying spread eagle on the floor consumed by grief.
What could I do? We walked over to the trash can and sure enough, I spotted the bracelet. There it was, lying in a glistening pile of discarded cheese and seafood (the samples that day weren’t at the top of children’s lists, I suppose).
No. I am not reaching in there. Forget it. That bracelet is worth about five cents.
I tried again to reason with her. This was about as helpful as trying to sweep up the sand off the beach. Not gonna happen.
I took a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, took the lid off the trash can, and leaned over as far as I could reach to get that stupid bracelet. It was just out of reach. Blast.
“Uh, ma’am, can I help you?” a deep voice next to me asked.
I withdrew my head from inside the can, prayed that I was not wearing feta cheese, and straightened my hair. I looked up at a middle-aged Costco employee who was looking at me trying to figure out if he should call security.
“Oh, no, I’m fine, thanks. Just looking for something. I do this all the time.”
Why did I say that?
He walked away still giving me a concerned look but said nothing. I stuck my head back in the trashcan for one last ditch effort.
Success! My fingers gripped the precious toy bracelet and I brought it out of the trash with a victorious smile.
“I got it! Look, honey, Mommy got it for you!”
But she was already gone. She and her sisters had walked a few feet away to look at some toys, likely embarrassed by the fact that their mother was most definitely digging through trash.
I stood up, straightened my blouse and tried to act nonchalant. People were eyeing me suspiciously.
I held my head high, retrieved my buggy, and calmly walked over to where the children were happily snuggling with a teddy bear bigger than me.
“Darling, I got your bracelet for you,” I said with all the control I could muster.
“Huh?”she asked, not even looking at me while she nuzzled the bear’s soft fur.
“Your bracelet. Remember the one you dropped in the trash and wanted me to get back for you?” I asked, holding it out for her to see.
She looked my way. “It’s yucky. I don’t want it anymore,” she said as she turned back to laying her head on the teddy bear’s tummy.
Yes, dumpster diving and motherhood. I’ll add it to my skills set on my resume.