We are ninjas.

On Friday I went to my book group. School’s starting this Wednesday for all of our kids, so a lot of the discussion centered more around this fact and less around Olive Kitteridge. As we chatted, I realized that all of my friends had already tackled and conquered their school shopping the weekend before. I could feel a piece of my soul shrivel up and die.

WHAT? Tax-free weekend was LAST week?! I gasped.

I listened with growing horror to their tales of endless checkout lines and empty shelves picked over by all of the GOOD parents in the world…those wise people who had realized it was tax-free weekend and hadn’t waited until the 11th hour to get their children ready for school.

Do you think it’s going to be a madhouse at Target tomorrow? I asked in a sad little voice.

My friends avoided looking me in the eye and gazed silently, pityingly into their laps.

It will, won’t it?

Ummm…you could maybe go at dinner time, one friend kindly suggested, It shouldn’t be as bad at dinner time. 

I already had dinner plans for Saturday. I was also expecting a former student of mine, now a Russian professor herself, to come at noon to go through my old books to see if there were any she would want. I had been planning to spend the entire rest of the day packing. (If things work out with the house, we’re supposed to start moving our stuff in on Friday).

I calculated that we had a small window of opportunity between 10 and 11:30 to go to Target to get the school shopping done. This might not seem like such a feat, but I knew it would be miraculous if I could manage to accomplish such a wondrous thing. Target is like some kind of weird black hole for me. By some sorcery, time stands still the moment I walk through those automatic doors. I immediately fall into a dazed and blissful stupor and for hour upon hour, I wander the aisles, mesmerized by the siren call of adorable, owl-shaped trash cans, irresistible hand towels, and of course: the glittery, melamine, dollar bin offerings.

Early Saturday morning I pored over the supply lists published on the school websites and wrote a list of the things each kid needed. I gathered the troops.

Listen, kids, I said, We’re going to Target to get your school supplies. I have to be back home by 12 today. We are going to be like ninjas. We’re going to be in and out of that store like a sleek band of ninja warriors. We’re going to be fast and efficient. IN. OUT. Got it? IN. OUT. 

I exasperated my daughter by repeating this mantra all the way to Target.

Why do you keep saying that, Mommy? YOU’RE the one who makes us spend hours in Target.

Little Miss Smartypants.

OK, fine. You’re right. I’m saying it mostly as a reminder to myself, ok?

We got to Target and the kids spilled out of the minivan and made a beeline straight to the school supply section.

OK, you know what you need to do. Go, go, go, go, go! 

They dispersed and came back to the cart repeatedly, their arms laden with folders, notebooks, pink erasers, pencils, flash drives…It took them all of ten minutes at the most.

OK, we’re done! they announced casually.

What?! You’re done?! I asked, reluctantly putting down an adorable notebook decorated with cunning little foxes. Really? Are you sure?…OK. Well, I guess we should head to the checkout then… 

As I started zigzagging up and down the aisles en route to the front of the store, my daughter hooked her arm in mine and steered me in a more direct route to the registers.

But can we just look at the…

She propelled me onward, whispering in my ear, “We’re ninjas. NINJAS! Remember, Mommy? Ninjas.

But I do need –

At this point she held her hands up to my face like horse blinders, and said simply, Ninjas.

And that’s how my daughter helped me redeem my sorry self and break some kind of personal world record by getting out of Target in record time. Like a ninja.

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