Borrowing Strangers’ Babies & Other Innocent Pastimes

I am sitting the parking lot. Without turning back, the boy saw shiny blocks in the corner and dove face-first into this new classroom. I like to read the back of his head as “Please don’t go! Don’t leave me, mama. Pleeeeaaaaaase!”. It could also have said “Whatevs. Peace out, hooker”. One can never be sure. As he is adjusting to life as a pre-preschooler, I am adjusting to life as the mom of a pre-preschooler when the pre-preschooler is off getting pre-preschooled. At the moment my adjustment looks a lot like shaking in the car and wondering if I can hold out a whole five hours without peeing. This could be good, yes, because I’d be exceptionally early to pick him up this afternoon. First impressions, people.

       I am so focused on not peeing that within minutes I am racing to the closest be-pottied establishment. It is the supermarket, where one can wee to the soothing sounds of  produce sprinklers outside the door. It occurs to me that with a block of anxious time at my disposal, I could get a few things done. I’ll start right here, right now. Progress! The public will stand in awe of her powerful powers of time-wasting. I grab what I know, the bulky green race car cart, squeaky right wheel, missing the plastic honky horn. Just like normal, I assure myself, although I’ve lost my diapered driver.

    I steer through the lanes, the cart too ass-heavy to catch tight turns. I feel the slamming shame of plowing into an Oreo display. Without Thomas to distract curious onlookers from the wreckage with his standard “Mooove. Get out muh wayyy, pleece”, I am all too much a mess. I scramble, shoving crushed Oreos onto random shelves. I scoot the last package away with my foot and that’s when I met him. The babiest baby you ever did see.  His mother approached with some caution as I was the inexplicably sweaty lady taking out snacks and citizens with a kiddy cart. She really needed some Triscuits, and, as luck would have it, I really needed to ogle her child.

    He was a beauty. Rolly legs and stupid slobbery grin, shiny hair that makes you wonder if uterine fluid really is nature’s finest conditioner. I squinted and blew my cheeks out, and discovered again why children are better than the rest of us. He cooed and laughed and was genuinely pleased to see my big mug. I realized perhaps I’d crossed the line from friendly stranger to frightening stalker when I contemplated putting him in my pocket. Just for a quick trip in the green race car with squeaky wheels and silent horns. Just for a little company, a friend to think my disastrous driving skills were hilarious. And when his mother and the moustached security team find us popping wheelies near the dairy coolers I’d explain the whole mess with perfect logic: “Hey. Hey. All y’all. Errbody chill out. No, it isn’t my baby. I was just borrowing it. “

    I never got that far. Us mothers have a wild way of predicting potential threats. To her credit, Fat Baby’s mom was exceptionally quick in getting the hell away from me. So I meandered to the check out aisle, stopping only to tell a stock boy that somebody- I have no idea who- somehow knocked over all pickles, condiments, and lobster tanks. I hand the white-haired cashier madam my Kroger card. She stares. I stare. There is really a lot of staring. She asks me if I’d like to purchase something, and I think “duh”. But in my grand tour of the store I’ve managed to damage a few hundred dollars’ worth of goods without actually picking up anything. I pick up a pack of gum and some chapstick and hand it over. Yes ma’am, I did come here with this mammoth buggy for some moisturizing lip balm and Bubblicious.

    Onward I wander.

I pull in to the dry cleaner’s pick-up window because this seems like something someone would do sometime.  A beautiful older woman approaches my window. She is blonde, with a little mole on her cheek. It’s a dainty mole without a whisker so it’s charming. I forgive her the metallic scrunchie that holds back her hair because she has exceptionally bright eyes and straight teeth. I can’t believe she’s not Asian, and before I could feel horrible for such a harsh stereotype, I realize she is rude, too. I’ve stared down her white face so intimately because she is skeptical and staring down mine. “So you have no dry cleaning to pick up?,” she asks then adds,” At the pick-up window… at the dry cleaners?”. Well, no. My plan wasn’t so planned. Just go with the flow. This is just like a normal day, I think and ask her “Suckers? Could we get a grape one, please?”. She glances to the empty car seat in the back, shakes her head, and walks  inside. I leave, wishing that white people were more generous with their candy stashes.

All these minutes with myself are becoming a monotonous blur. I am not that thrilling. I faintly remember stopping by Target. I think I scolded a 19-year-old boy when he informed me that the store doesn’t sell baby bonnets and onesies in Extra Tall/ Boys’ Large. I believe I ordered a Happy Meal and placed it in Thomas’ vacant car seat, because when I arrive at the local park my car reeks of soggy french fries and I’m holding a plastic Power Ranger toy.

    I park at the park and thank God I gave up my beard and Astro van years ago. That would be creepy. Then I mosey on into the playground and watch other people’s kids play. A young girl falls from a swirly ladder. I instinctively rush to her. She is ok, she says. Her mother thanks me, asks which tot is mine, flees. I’d like to tell her that Mother Teresa helped strangers and no one called her a perv, but she is already locking the doors to her reasonably priced mid-sized sedan. So I swing. My hips get jammed in a curvy slide. The teeter-totter just sinks with the thud of my rear on the ground. I play Seek because Thomas is not here to be the Hide. All balance is off. Sitting on the bench where I so often watch Thomas kicking mulch at birds, I begin to understand that I am miserably disabled at being alone.

   The wind blows  around one o’clock. It sounds like the public heaving a sigh of relief. I’m all “Calm down, Society. I’ll go kidnap my own damn kid”. About an hour left in my first day of Thomas’ First Day, I am sitting in the parking lot. For the second time that day I am staring at a playground. I see Thomas playing quietly near the metal fence. He plays with Tonka, plopping handfuls of mulch into a shiny yellow truck beds. He plays alone.

The hour passes. I am only slightly embarrassed to spend that hour watching my kid as he’s watched by his teachers. I hope he likes the cold Happy Meal I bought him, I think. Then a sick one: I hope he hated being away from me. I make my way inside, wondering if things get easier because they certainly can’t get creepier.

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18 thoughts on “Borrowing Strangers’ Babies & Other Innocent Pastimes

  1. I remember those days. I used to think, when my friends with older kids would say they couldn’t wait for school to start, that they were the cruelest parents on Earth. Now, however, I have joined their school-lovin’ ranks. You will come to the Dark Side. Eventually. Mwahaha. ;)

  2. I’m pretty sure I’m permanently banned from ‘operating’ the carts at my local supermarket. The way I crash those things I suspect there’s a Polaroid of me hanging-up in the back somewhere. And the food purses, er, baskets, don’t make me feel much better about my shopping experience, either. Seriously… can’t they at least have a few with spikes or a camo paint-job or something?

    • Haha. It’s the giant race car carts that are exceptionally hazardous. I have to belly bump the thing to get it to move. And once it’s moving? I have no way of controlling it.

      • Can’t help you with the beard – I couldn’t grow hair on a bet! I WAS gonna offer you our old Astro van, but I looked out the back window this morning, and it done rusted away! Just a small patch of dead grass surrounded by REAL tall grass, thanks to the dog “marking” it.
        Hmm. Maybe THAT was the cause of the rust…..

      • Naw, no bodies. (Well, no HUMAN ones.) Actually, it spent a lot of time as auxiliary “crap storage”, since none of the many rust spots actually pierced the passenger compartment. Problem was, the body was no longer attached to the frame, compliments of the rust. That piece of …. well, fertiliser, shall we say … was a weird impulse buy of my wife’s, and it didn’t last too long before we sold the thing off for parts (at very little loss, actually). She had some dream of driving hoards of Amish in it, and thus earning big bucks. It made maybe a dozen outings before parts literally began rusting off. 8O
        But hey, everybody is allowed one REALLY big car-purchase screw-up in their lives. Mine was buying the wife a clone of my beloved Cavalier, because I thought all Cavaliers were built great. WRONG! It’s only saving grace was its’ sunroof, which I popped out to haul a 12′ hunk of plastic pipe home from the Home Depot. Looked like a friggin’ trolley car, but it worked. :D
        Jeez, I REALLY gotta find my blog setup, wherever it got off to. So many wonderful car-related stories……

  3. Girl, we HAVE to get you a hobby. Let’s see, something easy and yet rewarding. Hey, about photography? Get you a nice, shiny new camera with one of those BIG long lenses.
    Hm?
    What’s that?
    Oh …. crazy lady in car, already stalking kids, pulls out MEGA-lensed camera……
    Yeah – maybe crocheting instead…. ;)

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  5. Oh, man. Reading these take me back to Li’l D’s first days away. How I hated those days! I had to go to work and put up a pretense of actually working, when in my brain, all that was was a constant stream of, “Good Lord, is it time to see my baby yet?” (Except with lots more blubbering.) I hope I can make light of it as you do if/when we’re lucky enough to present Li’L D with a sibling! Good luck, mama.

    • Blubbering. PERFECT word for it. I just wandered around completely lost. I was waiting for another mom or cop or kind stranger to find me, read Return To address written on the badn of my underpants and drive me home.

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