What goes around comes around…and out the sides

The scene: The Midwest, the suburbs, a two-story colonial, upstairs, a crib. Circa 1986.

The players: The dad, very little me.

The action: The mom says the almost-toddler-aged child is napping and should be down for the afternoon; she leaves the house. The garage door closes; a stench wafts down the stairs to the dad. The dad climbs stairs to find very little me standing in crib, coated in thick layer of my own forcefully expelled excrement. Am very pleased. Am covered from “hairline to between your toes” as the dad tells it for the next almost 30 years. Am deposited into tub and hosed liberally. All garments are disposed of. “Your time will come” also launched as favorite tagline henceforth.

Well, DAD.

The scene: Northern Virginia, the suburbs, a Kohl’s, a cart. June 2014.

The players: Me, the oyster, a cleaning lady with no English, 7 middle-aged women.

The action: We’re shopping for a brother-in-law’s birthday gift and the oyster begins emanating The Scent. Assuming it is a turd and can wait until we choose a tie, we continue shopping. Oyster is unperturbed. Tie chosen, we seek the bathroom for a diaper change. In front of guest services I park our cart and remove the oyster, discovering her to be covered from the armpits to the back of her legs in a soup of her own making. Spillage in cart. Oyster remains unperturbed. I carry her with stiff, outstretched arms into bathroom and flip down changing station panel with one superhero finger. I line changing station liberally with paper towel, which must be pumped from the STUPID DISPENSER one miniscule pump at a time. Four years later, I lay Oyster atop post-consumer padding and begin to strip all articles of clothing. Immediately upon contact with open air, patches of excrement dry onto skin–hers and mine–but Oyster is unperturbed. Now also naked. I have a spare diaper in my purse along with travel wipes, which reveal themselves to be but three in number. Wipes exhausted, toilet paper is required.

We turn now to our players:

Me: Do NOT move. Stay RIGHT there.  <frantically unrolls fistfuls of tp from nearest stall>
Oyster : La laa dee daa LAAA DAA PAPA!
Middle aged women 1 and 2: <stare, say nothing>
Me: Keep staying RIGHT THERE. <more tp>
Middle aged women 3 and 4: <stand in my way as I try to exit the stall, while jabbering among themselves about who will go first into the handicap stall; hint: if you don’t move, it’s going to be both of you>
Me: <wets tp at sink, scrubs Oyster hind parts, tp falls apart in pills of poop-covered paper> DON’T MOVE. Good job NOT MOVING.
Me: No, Daddy’s not here. Alas for me.
<cleaning lady, who watched the whole thing, is now near me>
Me: Hi! Do you have some kind of regular paper towel, like kitchen paper towel? And a disinfectant spray? There’s poop in the cart we were using, out there, and I’d like to scrub it down. Do you have something I should use for that?
Cleaning lady: You want…I stand baby?
Me: I’m sorry?
Cleaning lady: Sorry, no English.
Me: Oh. Hrm. Ok, thanks.
Middle aged women 5, 6, and 7: <stand there as I explain, in vain, to the cleaning lady what I need, and then hustle themselves past; oh Virginia, if you were Michigan someone would have helped me by now>
Oyster: MAMA.
Me: Don’t move. <commences pumping paper towel .35 cm at a time; dampens paper towel in sink> I’m sorry about this, baby girl…
Oyster: Ow. Ohh ho ho oww. Mama.
Me: I know, I’m sorry. <scrubs>
Oyster: Blar blar WOOF WOOF MEOWWWW.

And so I scrubbed her poor bum and legs and back with imitation tree bark until all traces of the explosion were to be found only in the cart we had to tackle next. Fiercely pumping more of the STUPID SLOW CRUNCHY PAPER TOWEL into my waiting hand, I filled the nest with a blue foamy spray that looked like it may kill something, and paraded out of the bathroom with that, my naked child, and a determined look on my face. I scrubbed that cart until the paper towel went dry and to my everlasting surprise, no one from guest services said anything. Nothing about the smell of poop, or the naked child (she had sandals and a clean diaper, so not truly nakie, I guess), or the guest cleaning her own cart with industrial grade chemicals. Kind of feel like that’s a customer-service fail but I’m just the lady cleaning poop off another human, so ignore me. Please. Like everyone else who had two free hands and a set of eyeballs.

The Oyster and I zoomed to the toddler section as fast as that crappy (oh I do love a pun) cart would go and I threw my child into a plain top and bike shorts as fast as I could, leaving the tags on, lest anyone in the entire store suddenly notice what I was doing and confront me. At that point, I would have dared them.

<end scene>

So, DAD. Looks like my time did come at last. I just wish my time had come when we were at home and the bathtub nigh. And bummer for you that you didn’t have a blog when I ruined your day–and my crib sheet–in 1986. 😀


In which Trader Joe’s and I bury the hatchet

In the interest of full disclosure, when Trader Joe’s first came to the old home state, I was indifferent at best. And then I shopped there a few times, found it organized in a way that didn’t make sense to me, not much better price-wise than the regular grocery stores, and generally overwhelming and my indifference turned to animosity. That people who didn’t live near a Trader Joe’s would send grocery lists with friends who would be traveling past one blew my mind.

Also, when I found out one July that the chocolate truffles are seasonal and that season is winter, I almost punched a kitten in the face.

So for many years I have loathed Trader Joe’s and saw no reason to change my mind on this.

Then we moved to Virginia and the Trader Joe’s (Traders Joe’s?) abound(s?). I found myself slipping into the Old Town location now and then, for the wine, and always under duress. The place frustrated me with its big, bubbly signage that is hard to read, its constant rearranging of products, and the stupid conveyor belt-less check out lanes. Plus, the orchids are by the dog food…what? Why? What?

And so I bought our wine there and continued to hate it.

But then I noticed that flowers were a good price, a better price than our corner Safeway. And nicer looking. Target, where I do 94% of all my shopping, doesn’t carry flowers. Well, maybe I could stand to get a bunch of tulips when I come for wine.

And then I started to host one of my book clubs more often, and the cheese and cracker options at Trader Joe’s really were second to none, and decently priced and without the additives and preservatives in my standard Target choices. Well, since I’m already stopping in for wine and flowers, I may as well get cheese and crackers, too.

Soon I was buying all of our wine, flowers, cheese, and most crackers at Trader Joe’s. On a semi-weekly basis. And we eat a lot of cheese.

Then I realized that .19 cents per banana really is a deal, and those were often in our cart when we checked out. Then so was the broccoli. And then the coffee.

Still, I would have called my relationship with Trader Joe’s cordial, but not friendly. Not even the cookie butter had swung the pendulum as far as friendly.

The staff at our Trader Joe’s is kind, and each time we go in, the little oyster is greeted with smiles and pinches and happy chatter. I soon realized that these people are happy to be there and they love to see a jolly little girl roll in, applauding other shoppers and dancing along with the music that is always playing. More than once we’ve been in an aisle minding our own business and heard, “There she is!” as one employee brings another to meet “the cutest baby you’ve ever seen.”

It has certainly seemed for some time like Trader Joe’s wanted to be friends with us. But I wasn’t willing. Mostly because it’s always crowded no matter what time of day we go, they still use that stupid bubbly, colorful signage that makes my brain twitch, and the dumb cash registers! I can’t see what my kid is doing, find my ID for the wine, make pleasant conversation back at you, put the nice paper bags into my cart, and still remember to pay!

I figured that Trader Joe’s and I would always be on speaking terms, but never truly friends. We’d be those classmates who go to school together for 13 years, don’t mind working together in chem lab, but would never end up at the same lunch table, much less each other’s houses. But after months of dancing around the subject of whether or not we could really become friends, something happened today that settled the debate for good and in the affirmative.

Today I discovered that Trader Joe’s sells milk for $2.99/gallon.

You know what, Trader Joe’s? You can put your orchids and dog food wherever you want, I’m just going to help myself to a few of your $2.99 gallons of milk, move my flowers and wine and cheese in the cart to make room for them, and be on my way. Good buddy.

Floating on my cloud of new friendship with the place, the oyster and I checked out at one of the lanes quaintly named after the picturesque streets of Old Town. And suddenly the no-conveyor-belt thing didn’t annoy me so much. What’s the point, really? Who needs a conveyor belt? You just hang on to my bags on that side of the counter until after I have paid you and have room for them in my cart and we’ll be golden. No harm, no foul, no petty larceny. Ahh, my friends.

Also, our cashier today pointed out the prominent bite marks on the cheese he was ringing up and asked if they were from my shopping companion or if I would like to choose a new piece of cheese. No no, said I, we broke it, we bought it.

Also, our cashier today pointed out the prominent bite marks on the cheese he was ringing up and asked if they were from my shopping companion or if I would like to choose a new piece of cheese. No no, said I, we broke it, we bought it.


The oyster and I got our parking slip stamped (oh yeah, our Trader Joe’s and its parking lot are half-way underground because that’s the only place left to put anything around here) and waved at other departing patrons–my sisters! my brothers!–as we gamboled back to our car.

One thought about my new friend still niggled in the back of my mind. The signage. The unreadable signage. Trader Joe’s signs are like a unibrow. I know that other people find it quirky and endearing. I find it puzzling, hard to look at, and not something I’d ever go for. But what I call difficult to understand, someone else would call a style choice.  And on a friend, like my new friend Trader Joe’s, I can respect a style choice. Especially when my friend sells me milk for $2.99 a gallon.

I’m so glad we’re friends now, Trader Joe’s. Unibrow signs and all.

Just like the old days but it’s the new days

After graduating from college, the dear friend–who premiered in my life as the college roommate–and I met for breakfast at the same restaurant every Thursday for about six years. Obviously, this can no longer be the case.

But today the dear friend and her mister flew into Baltimore, and the husband and I, with the help of our new GPS* unit, picked them up at the airport and went for Thursday breakfast just like it was the old days. And then we all strolled around Baltimore, went shopping, and had lunch because this is the new days.

When we got home from our B-more adventure, a box was waiting for me on the front porch. The little sister drew my name in this year’s sibling gift exchange and had told me to expect a hair dryer box not containing a hair dryer a few days after Christmas.

The little sister is a remarkably thoughtful gift giver. She is also a stylist, something I am always proud to tell people when talking about my family and something that accounts for the hair dryer box at her disposal. Inside this box with its bold Italian labels proclaiming the superiority (which I don’t doubt) of its original inhabitant was an array of cosmetic treasures that I cannot wait to use. She also included a necklace ‘because it didn’t seem right without something pretty.’

Yes, yes I will smell amazing and be frizz-free in the new year.

Me: Thank you for the great goodies!
The little sister: You’re welcome! And I hope you don’t mind the necklace. It seemed incomplete without something pretty to open.
Me: I love it. I don’t have anything like it and it’s not in the picture because I’m wearing it.
The little sister: Oh good! I saw it and thought of you. I got it at Target because I know you know how to get to the one near you and home again, just in case.
Me: Ahh, a doubly thoughtful gift. Oh! I also like the candy canes, which tumbled out of the box in a merry display of enthusiastic Christmas cheer.
The little sister: The mom added those.

This is the second time this Christmas that someone has offered a gift with the explanation, ‘I saw this and thought of you,’ and I don’t think there’s a more humbling or thoughtful thing to say to someone else.

On Christmas morning as the husband, his brothers, and I exchanged sibling gifts, the mother in law tucked a small square box next to me, bearing a tag that read from the mother in law and offering the excuse, ‘I saw this and thought of you.’

It is a truth universally acknowledged that cute gifts from Etsy must arrive in equally cute wrapping paper.

The strips inside the ornament are lines from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a favorite, and whether it was the content or the concept of the ornament that made the mother in law think of me, I don’t know. I repacked the ornament as carefully as I had unpacked it and it’s now hanging in the shoebox, helping to extend Christmas until I’m darn good and ready to pack everything up.

Tonight, unable to eat out or partake of holiday food any longer, the husband and I went grocery shopping. In the old days, there was red velvet cake. But this is the new days, and in DC, the red velvet cake comes with a fork. If that’s not customer service, I don’t know what is.

Dime-size bites don't make it taste better but they do make it last longer. God bless the new days.

* For Christmas the husband and I received a GPS unit with all the trappings from the parents in law. It has proven a valuable addition to our navigational well-being.