Wednesday, January 18, 2012


   For starters, I always figured I could get through life without ever having to darken the door of a store with a backwards "R" in its name. English majors don't go for that kind of shameless jocularity with our language, even if the place does carry everything your baby will need and ten times more.  But there I was last week, sweeping through the Babies-R-Us, sniffing out the weekly bargains, completely oblivious to the subject/predicate disagreement or the heinously cornball, backward "R" attempting to be a verb that is printed on every tag. Nowadays I only notice the red clearance tags, and I can spot them 3 aisles away.
   I was in the boys' pajama section, looking for some discounted warm ones when a woman sped past me. I guessed that, like me, she was on limited time before getting back with her kid. "Do you know where the stockings are, you know. like, little girl tights?" She swiveled back in my direction, lost. I pointed to the girls' leggings rack, since I have, sadly, memorized the layout of the place.

   But she had more to say,"I don't believe I'm doing this! My little girl's been swallowed by Cinderella!" OK. So, I had to hear more now. Just in case my boy gets swallowed by something. "I don't know where she gets it! I swear I didn't show her this. She's a girly girl! Suddenly everything has to be pink and girly." She squnched up her nose in distaste, "And I never wear pink - I never...I mean, look at me!" I took time to really see her. She was right. From the toboggan covering most of her hair to her thick stretch pants and athletic shoes (all dark blue) she looked like she'd just ridden in on a bike. Make-up-free, and outfitted possibly from the men's department of Diamond Brand. Hmm. Interesting. And then she went on, clasping her hands dramatically. ""Oh, Prince of my dreams, my one true love, where are you?'," she imitates her girly-girl's play acting. "Here I come, on my trusty steed, fair maiden!" she galloped a few steps, demonstrating her own appointed role in the scene. Her eyes roll and I'm laughing now. "I don't even know how to put those things on, do you?" She asked, not waiting for my answer. It must have been obvious that I never wear "those things" either. She continued, "And she's starting to look at me very disapprovingly, too. She asked me yesterday, 'Mommy, why don't you dress like other mothers, with pretty high heels and dresses?' " She threw her hands up.

  "Oh, no," I moaned sympathetically. This was starting to get distressing. I gave her a simultaneous smile and frown in solidarity as she huffed off in search of something pink for little legs. "Poor ol' gal" I thought, returning to my pajama search. "She's got it rough." Then I look at what I'm actually doing. I had two pair in my hand, and I was deciding which monster truck print looked most realistic. Standing in an "R-Us" store, picking out monster truck pajamas. Me! I thought of the accumulated hours I've sat with Zysean on my lap, watching You Tube videos of steam trains. I actively study steam trains these days. I thought of the early morning we drove out to the train track to watch the cargo train roll under the overpass. I thought of the night that my whole family heard a train whistle in the car and sped off toward the nearest access to the tracks and stomped around in the dark weeds just to let Zysean see the train go by. And I held all this up against my actual interest in trains. Or monster trucks. The things we do. A sigh went out for what is lost of our self-perception when we become parents. We can't create their character from our own. With each embrace of this unique, growing life in our house, our own image becomes more and more...beside the point. My heart went out to that nice tom-boy mom who would love to be raising a grungy trail-hiker. She doesn't know it yet, I thought, but she'll soon be wearing high heels and dresses, guaranteed, right along with her daughter. And laughing, too, I hope.

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