I like taking the baby shopping. It doesn’t matter what kind – grocery shopping, clothes shopping, even going to Home Depot. We get a change of scenery, some fresh air and he gets a nice nap in the car, which gives me a couple of minutes to relax and hear my own thoughts, listen to a radio program, maybe even get a cup of coffee and drink it while it’s still hot.
But every excursion is a bit of a juggling act. I have to load up the heavy car seat, one of our three strollers, the diaper bag and my knapsack. I used to carry my money and a credit card in my back pocket because I didn’t want to carry a pocket book. Now, I’m lugging so many bags, I look like a donkey. I’ve seen women carry the baby in the car seat like they’re going to grandmother’s house carrying a picnic basket. I look like a cartoon sketch of a weight lifter trying to raise a kettle bell that’s too heavy.
And once we’re packed up, I’m still trying to figure out how to operate everything in our new family car. How do I turn on the lights? Why do the windshield wipers keep going on? How do I adjust my side view mirror? With so much to remember, I often forget things. Twice last week, I carried the baby out to the car in my arms and opened the door, only to realize I had nowhere to put him. His car seat was inside the house.
The other day, we decided to go to Carter’s clothing store because the baby has outgrown all of his long-sleeved onesie’s. He’s now eight-and-a-half months, and I’ve been squeezing him into clothes meant for a six-month old. He looks like a super hero who’s eaten too much.
As a treat, I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru on the way there to get a hot cup of coffee. Still not used to our new car, I got in the drive thru line behind a car already at the window, and I accidently hit my horn. Twice. The driver looked at me in his side view mirror. I shrugged my shoulders and mouthed the word, “Sorry.” And then under my breath said, “Sort of.” He had already gotten his order and was lingering in the lane longer than he should have.
When we got to Carter’s, I pulled the umbrella stroller out of the trunk and put the baby inside. An umbrella stroller, as it sounds, has arms that curve like a candy cane or, well, an umbrella. What it doesn’t have is a cup holder in which to place your coffee. Moreover, the wheels wobble, making it almost impossible to push it in a straight line with just one hand. But I tried, holding my coffee in one hand and steering the stroller with the other.
With both hands full, I got to the door of Carter’s and had no way of opening it. Thankfully, someone was walking out of the store as I approached.
Once inside, I put the coffee down and flipped through a rack of terry cloth and fleece onesies and plucked out six outfits. I picked up my coffee and headed for the register. As I paid for everything, the baby started flipping around in the stroller like a fish on a dock. By the time I was done at the register, he had turned his body almost 180 degrees and was facing the back of the stroller. I wheeled him off to the side of the register and sat down on the floor in front of him to flip him back around and tighten the straps that held him in. But the straps were wrapped around the plastic buckles in such a way that they were impossible to adjust. I sat on the floor by the register for about 10 minutes trying to extricate the strap from the buckle while Eddie sat in the stroller playing with his pacifier and my car keys.
After a minute or two, a young blonde girl, who was about two-and-a-half, walked over and stood next to Eddie’s stroller and stared at him. Eddie gave her a big smile. She didn’t smile back, but she didn’t leave. She just stood over his stroller looking at him.
“What’s your name,” I asked her.
“Belkjoirhe,” she said.
“What is it?” I asked.
“BJkowjlkwj,” she said.
It sounded something like Brie-an-yer, but I couldn’t tell. Why can’t people give their kids normal monosyllabic names like Ann or Beth, like they did when I was growing up?
Within seconds of me talking to her, the girl’s mother was upon us.
“C’mon, BJkowjlkwj ,” the woman said and dragged the girl away as if I was a pedophile. Sitting on the floor looking up at them, I felt a little like a pedophile.
I went back to trying to fix the strap. Moments later, the girl was back. Again, Eddie smiled at her and again she just stood there looking at him. She was clearly intrigued. Soon, her mother was back.
“BJkowjlkwj. Come look at these,” she said, showing the girl a pair of socks. The girl followed behind her mother as the two walked off.
I started to tell Eddie something about women and clothes and how with some of them, shopping will trump everything, but before I could say anything, the girl was back. She looked down at the keys Eddie was holding and started to reach out for them.
“They’re just keys,” I said. “I’m sure your mother has a set. Why don’t you ask her?”
As the girl reached out for Eddie’s keys, he dropped his pacifier on the floor. The girl knelt down and picked it up and stuck it in his mouth.
“Good girl,” I said.
Just then, her mother appeared from around a clothes rack. “BJkowjlkwj! Don’t touch other children’s things!” she said. I wasn’t sure if she was concerned for the safety of my child or her own. She then took the girls hand and led her away.
I struggled with the strap another minute or two and then gave up. I stood up, grabbed my coffee and began pushing the stroller toward the door, the bag of clothing I’d just bought dangling from one of the stroller’s arms, but as I pushed through the door, it swung back and knocked my arm, sending coffee all over the bag of new clothes. I started pulling the clothes out of the bag so the coffee running down the inside wouldn’t reach them. I crumpled up the bag and stuffed it into a garbage pail and then threw the cup of coffee on top of it.
I walked back to the stroller, tucked the ball of clothing under my arm, and began pushing it forward, but the
front wheels kept turning sideways, stopping the stroller from moving forward. I’d jiggle the front of the stroller until the wheels straightened out so that I could start moving again. When I was about 10 feet from the store I remembered my sales receipt and a coupon for 20% off my next purchase were inside the bag. I went back and stuck my hands down into the garbage. As I fished around for the bag, I noticed some people sitting on a bench next to the pail. It was the young girl and her mother. I looked at them and was tempted to say, “I’m just the babysitter,” but I didn’t. I just turned around and started pushing the stroller forward. And when the front wheels turned sideways I pressed on, even as the wheels scraped against the floor and, like a shovel, collected all the gum wrappers and cigarette butts in my path.