So, an Amish woman walks into an elevator…
Heard that one before?
No, seriously, I was at the mall and an Amish woman walked into the elevator behind me.
To say I was a little scared would have been A FREAKIN’ UNDERSTATEMENT.
I’ve got nothing against Amish people. I like their buggies and beards. It’s just that around here, you don’t really see too many Amish people. Last I checked there was no Amish colony in the Chicago suburbs. So seeing her surprised me.
I looked at her, and smiled.
She looked at me, smiled and then after the longest most silent pause in which the elevator and time very well might have stood still she said very solemnly….
I mean, oh gosh.
Is this what happens when you die? Am I dead? Did I finally keel over from lack of sleep or all those mean things I’ve thought about people when no one else is listening that make me think I am not only going to hell BUT DRIVING THE BUS THAT GOES THERE! So this is it? You board an elevator with a highly religious woman, the door closes, you press the lower level button and it sends you careening straight into hell?
It felt like eternity. Eternity! How fitting! I felt like God was in the elevator with me, observing me, grading me. Jesus! AH! Scratch that. All of a sudden everything about me was sinful, wrong and I felt guilty. Think quick: what was the last thing you did. I don’t know! Where to begin? REPENT! REPENT ALREADY!
Donotmakeyecontactdonotmakeeyecontact. But I can’t help myself. Out of the corner of my eye I see her looking at me and she knows I’m looking at her because – she is probably the right hand puppet of god.
I'm so scared!
All I can think about is what I’m doing or what I’ve done wrong. CONFESS YOUR SINS! Damn Catholic guilt! I can’t even go shopping without it hitting me. But there I was in the middle of the afternoon with my baby sleeping in the stroller happily sucking away at a pacifier (evil!), with a large cup of Dunkin Donuts decaf coconut with cream (I’ll admit it, I wanted the fatty fat fluffer cream today!), my iPhone in my hand (tool of the devil!) and a Delia’s shopping bag in my other hand (Delia’s!? What am I….12?!). I’M A HEATHEN! Clearly she is scrutinizing me against her little bonnet of perfectness tied upon her head. And just as I want to pound on the glass to the shoppers below signaling an existential emergency was taking place SEND HELP NOW, the elevator bing-ed.
The door opened, after what had to be the LONGEST ONE FLOOR ELEVATOR RIDE OF MY LIFE.
Our eyes met.
And then, she followed me. I wish I was kidding. I pick up my pace. I dart into Home Goods, discretely glancing over my shoulder – she’s there. Going toward the back of the store - THERE!
Take the coffee. Here’s the pacifier. Heck, take the child! And you’re right, I am too old to be shopping at Delia’s!
After all of this internal turmoil, she fakes me out by walking towards Marshall’s. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ALL ABOUT!? Is this a warning? Is this how you become a Catholic in bad standing (more on that later). And if so – how did the Amish get involved?
Forgive me, for I have sinned. I am shopping in the middle of the afternoon when I should be working. But please – I have a 4 month old and if I read one more book about puppies, sing one more song about what is mommy doing now or get spit up on one more time I WILL LOSE MY MARBLES and create a much greater sin – getting very, very drunk by 10 am. Who can blame me. It’s survival!
Yes, Max and I have been going to the shopping mall once a week to get out of the house. When he naps, I work. When he’s awake, we play. When I feel like I can no longer rattle the Pirate Octopus toy or make animal sounds, we go to the mall.
And, I’ve learned, I’m not the only one who uses the mall as escape.
Go to the mall on a weekday and it’s filled with the unemployed who simply cannot give up pursuing their American dream lifestyle, old people eating ice cream and mothers with strollers. Entire brigades of suburban moms pushing UppaBabys, Chiccos, Gracos. Paying good money to put their child on a train that goes in circles. Resisting temptation of about 100 places that always seem right in front of my face selling cookies or chocolate. Getting verbally assaulted by the lady selling lotion at the kiosk (WHO BUYS THAT SHIT!?). And, of course, shopping.
Which reminds me – I have GOT to stay out of Gymboree. That place is like crack to new mommys. Oh you think you can stay away. Then you go in there and see the cutest damn monkey hat or get wooed with the siren song of a sale race boasting an extra 20 percent.
Work of the devil!
The scary part – I am learning the language of the mall. I’ve learned that if you pretend like you don’t speak English, the lady selling lotion won’t bother you. If you need to nurse or change your baby, hands down Von Mauer has the best women’s lounge. I’ve learned that if you go to the Dunkin Donuts right around 2 pm, there’s a good chance the clerk will make you a fresh pot of decaf and give you a large even though you ordered a medium. I’ve learned that despite my best attempts, I am not Forever 21 anymore and might better fit at Ann Taylor.
I was at the mall today to buy an outfit for Max’s baptism. (I’ve never been to a baptism so I don’t know what to wear and all I have to work with is my mom’s warning to not wear anything risqué - in case I was planning on showing up dressed as Heidi Fleiss). For all of my non-Catholic friends, a baptism washes away original sin from your baby. It wipes their slate clean so they can spend the next 18 years filling it up with all sorts of sins like stealing candy, sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night and calling their siblings names.
I don’t know all of this because I’m a good Catholic but because we had to go to a class on how to be good Catholic parents. Ironically it was taught by a surly deacon who seemed more interested in telling us that when he decided not to be a priest because he liked women too much.
And that falls into the category of too much information.
First we had to answer a bunch of questions about religion. What are sacraments, what is faith. Dammit! No one told me there would be a quiz. We watched a video from the 1980s on what happens at a baptism where I spent more time looking at the hairdos and make up thinking – these poor people were caught indelibly on film looking like that. And then we talked about godparents. Apparently to be a godparent you have to be a Catholic in good standing.
Which begs the question: what does one have to do to be a Catholic in bad standing?
Probably go to the shopping mall at 2pm on a Wednesday because you get a little overwhelmed with parenting. How did that happen? Well…
Max has a new skill:
And he is not afraid to use it as a weapon of parental control.
The other night we were trying to cook dinner. Max was supposed to be entertained by the 1000 things we’ve accumulated to entertain him. Yet nothing works like mommy or daddy. He started squealing very loud pitched squeals for a very long time to let us know that the activity mat with all of its colors and animals is not the good time he was looking for.
What’s the return policy on this kid?
30 days with receipt.
I guess we’re out of warranty.
Squealing is developmentally appropriate. It comes right after the a-goo, a-goo stage and before the babbling. Believe it or not, there is a progression to baby sounds: agoo, squeal, babble, bah bah and then they just belt right out with screw you guys you’ll never understand me.
I think that is the stage in language we call teen angst.
Maybe that is why God sent the Amish woman after me, For admitting that there are times where I think to myself – how did I get here and how do I get my old life back? Part of me is kidding but the other part – the part that had to deal with this at 11:30 this morning:
(I sent this to Chris and he said – wow, it’s Max with a giant animal print on his back. Only after a second glance did he realize this was a picture of blowout of epic proportions. Not only did he blow out his second outfit of the day but the high chair covering and his pack ‘n play blanket. And, note that like many blowouts, this one defies the laws of psychics. It’s like he has a rotating nozzle on his pooper that shoots straight up his back. How do babies do this!?)
Anyways, after doing another load of laundry to clean up this yummy mess (only to be outdone a few hours later, and that is how you go through over 3 outfits a day), I thought to myself about that other part that wonders sometimes…
What the hell is going on here!? Where did this baby come from and who is this person!?
I look at him sometimes and see a person with a personality that he reveals to us every day. A stranger to me but certain who he is already is. Yes, I believe babies are wired to be who they are. He is incredibly energetic and curious about the world. So curious that he fights sleep to the last moment of fitful head turns, rubbing his eyes and squeals until finally he is defeated. I’m convinced he would much rather stay awake and see what’s happening. He stares at his toys with my focused intent. He laughs at the world like Chris, happy go lucky.
And we are completely at his whim – he is who he is and right now he doesn’t understand wait, I’ll be right there, you’re fine (but I’m convinced he will grow up thinking his name is HANG ON!). He only knows the immediate here and now. If I’m not there, I might not be coming back. If he wakes up alone in his crib, he just might be in the great wilderness alone being circled by wolves. It’s a very here and now lifestyle as a baby. And all you can do as parents is go with it. You can’t reason with them or explain it away. All you can give them is your patience.
That explains why I was at the mall at 2 pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Maybe my patience had worn thin after too many interrupted sleeps or blowouts. I’m not overly religious or even superstitious but perhaps the Amish woman, looking me over with what felt like judgmental eyes was reminding me that this time is fleeting, take advantage of it while you can. Don’t try to escape it – embrace it. And if all it takes to entertain him is waving a Pirate Octopus toy in front of him – then so be it. You’ll be wishing for that in another few years. Who am I kidding – MONTHS when he starts becoming mobile.
So, whomever is out there in the universe sending me signs, point taken. I’ll read I Love Puppies. Again. AND AGAIN. And again until I don’t need to look at the words anymore. THERE!
But I’m telling you, if I’m at the mall next Wednesday and an Amish woman follows me into the elevator, I’ll just drop my coffee, surrender my iPhone and run to the nearest fountain to cleanse myself.
Consider it my baptism.
And I have a fabulous new outfit for it!