Chaos and Headless Dummies

Unfortunately, Narragansett No. 7 has been a casualty of back to school chaos which included, but was not limited to, a missing school bus, hurricane Irene, a visit from grandma and our dear friends Taryn and Rob. Adding to the insanity, my second writing packet has to be completed and returned to my Stonecoast faculty mentor by September 23rd, so whatever spare time I have had in the last seven days has been devoted to reading books and writing. Ghost stories and traumatic memoir and short stories and…well, you get the idea.

How positively smart of me to take on graduate school at this stage in my life. I mean, really… life wasn’t complicated enough.

It’s been slow at No. 7. I know…

But I miss you.

I miss us.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I’ve changed and become responsible. I’m going to bed at a reasonable hour and doing my homework now. I’m scaling the mountains of laundry that accumulated while we waited for our new dryer (Dear Samsung, you suck!) and we went school shopping. Yes, I took all three children (simultaneously) to the mall where we shopped for shoes and clothes. We all survived, thanks to my quick thinking and street smarts.

No, not really. We survived because there is nothing inherently dangerous about the mall. I have also stopped worrying about the people in Baby Gap. Seven years of motherhood has desensitized me. I don’t care what anyone thinks when Kate knocks down one of those creepy decapitated Baby Gap mannequins. Let’s face it; they’re a disturbing bunch. Those cranium deprived faceless babies could be inflicting irrevocable damage upon the mental state of children all over the world! It isn’t that far-fetched, the Gap has gone global. Kazakhstan is the latest country to be infected by denim clad headless dummies. What kind of newly-hatched human wouldn’t be alarmed at the sight of an impeccably layered, plump toddler without a dome? It’s weird.

I’ve also stopped worrying what people think when I holler the names of my children at random intervals. Besides, the hollering is only a portion of my cyclical technique. It begins with my pillage of the sale racks while repeatedly looked left, right and left again. I then execute a half spin and inspect the region directly behind me to determine the exact location of each of my three children. If, somewhere in my manic cycle of pillaging and mothering, I happen to lose sight of a child, I loudly call out his or her name while shushing the others so I can assess said child’s location. To a childless woman, it might appear that I have some disorder akin to Tourette’s syndrome. I repeatedly perform this odd ritual to ensure that my children have not been stolen or climbed a “Gap Employees Only” ladder to ceiling height.

 By the way, Gap employees… my two year old can’t read that plaque on your ladder, so if you are no longer using the ladder to adjust the headless babies, please put it away. Children + Ladders x Mother without prescription meds = me deeming you a daft jackass for leaving it unattended in the first place.

If, in fact, you have negligently failed to remove the safety hazard ladder from the sales floor, it’s best for all parties involved if you refrain from reprimanding my child for climbing said ladder. Trust me. You are required to provide a safe and pleasant environment while I attempt to squander copious amounts of my husband’s salary on clothing for my children. That happens to be a portion of the money I plan to recoup if a judge should decide that Gap Inc. owes my injured child a hefty sum for her pain and suffering.

Also, if I choose to undress one of your plump headless and impeccably layered mannequins because it is wearing the last purple 5T dress, you can’t stop me. Please don’t sigh and show visible annoyance because I am disrobing your creepy display. Just give me the clothes and no one will get hurt. I’m trying to attire my children, so that dummy will just have to find a new get up.

 While I’m on the subject, might I offer some additional suggestions?

If you see a mother with three children and a pile of clothes on August 28th, it’s fair to assume they are school shopping. Maybe, I don’t know… HELP HER? Why not periodically take a spin through your store and check on the family of four who has squashed themselves into a tiny dressing room? This is the perfect opportunity to do your job. It’s not that hard, you know.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, sales associates performed this very function. It’s true…I swear. I’ve heard legends about the ancient ones.  They were a tribe of sales people who willingly assisted parents rather than ignore them. In fact, newly discovered cave paintings crudely depict a Gap sales associate actually making eye contact with a customer while handing over a wooly mammoth poncho. Can you imagine? 

Seriously. When it reaches the point where a woman is red in the face and visibly sweating, you might step in and say, “Oh, let me help you with that.” If she is dealing with a crying toddler and 7 year old determined to study the private parts of pregnant mannequins and when she is no longer quietly lamenting that it would be nice if someone – anyone – could help, maybe it’s time to stop folding and interact.

 If, for some maddening reason you have chosen pay no heed to your customer, it is most unwise to suddenly dash behind the register and sweetly inquire, “Did you find everything you needed today?” Chances are, if I’m the person you’ve posed that question to, you’re going to get an earful and raging case of the stink-eye. I’ll probably say something to the effect of, “No. In fact I didn’t because I just spent two hours restraining my children while performing the job of a Gap sales associate.” This statement will either produce a moment of stunned silence or an indignant glare. Either way, you’ll stand on the other side of the counter and realize that yes, that woman did just say that to you.

You’ll be forced to watch her children, who now resemble a riotous troop of chimpanzees, as they hurl your freshly folded clothing on the floor. If you’re smart, you won’t say a damn word. That harried mother has surrendered and silently given her children full permission to behave like poo-flinging primates. She is allowing them ransack and annihilate Baby Gap. Why? Because you, dear sales woman, stood chatting and folding sweaters for an hour and half instead of offering your much-needed assistance. That’s why.

Of course, the preceding paragraph is entirely hypothetical.

Mean Girls

A couple of weeks ago, Gwen and I were standing at the cash register at Baby Gap minding our own beeswax when a mini-Mean Girl made her grand entrance. Build a Bear box in hand, this four year queen bee wannabe zeroed in on Gwen and headed straight into Gwen’s personal space. I stood back and watched as she belly bumped Gwen and then held up her Build a Bear box in some sort of weird pre-school challenge. Her face was a mask of nastiness as she moved her gaze to me and brazenly stared me down with her very adult expression. In fact, I imagine that if she was a full grown woman she would have been saying, “Yeah, that’s right bitchez! I got a Build a Bear…wanna go?” I swear. I’m totally not exaggerating.

I was slightly shocked and looked up at the mother who proudly stood back watching her precious little ball of love. Immediately I had Mommy’s number. She was a Mean Girl grooming her spawn to follow in her evil footsteps. I knew her well.

I spent a portion of 10th grade dodging a psychopath Junior who told me she was going to kill me on a daily basis. To me she was an Amazon, but then again I was 5’2” and weighed all of 95 pounds. This girl, who was definitely not right in the head, was sicked on me by two Mean Girl twin sisters in my own grade for some (still) unknown reason. Finally, at a basketball game I was summoned out to the hallway where the crazy Amazon and The Nasty Sisters were waiting to “kick my ass”. I remember thinking that they were all a bunch of idiots and go right ahead…we’ll see what happens to you for your random act of violence…until I was saved by a bigger and older friend. Those were the days, huh? Before “Bullying” became a buzz word.

That same year, on the cheerleading bus two more junior girls suddenly felt the need to grace me and my friend with their presence. As they sat in the seat across from mine, they turned to me and said, “You know, we used to want to kill you, but you’ll suffice.” I think I was supposed to be thrilled that the most popular girl in the 11th grade and a member of her posse were kind of deeming me socially acceptable. This might have been my invitation to become their lapdog. Perhaps they were ready to put me through their snotty hazing ritual meant to weed out those girls who they deemed “sufficiently acceptable”. The reality of the situation was that I didn’t give a shit and my response to their statement pretty much let them know that. Needless to say, I was back on the Kill List within minutes. When it came to this particular group of girls, I kind of liked being on their Kill List and didn’t feel like I sold out to be one of their herd. I’m proud of 15 year old me and my big mouth.

But that brings me back to the mini-Mean Girl encounter in Baby Gap. I try to stand back and let nature take its course in situations like this. Typically, Joe walks away when confronted. I don’t get that at all. Gwen stands up to the challenge. I get her.

As mini-Mean Girl continued her weird ritual dance of harassment via Build a Bear box and space invasion, I sat back and let Gwen do her stuff. I mean, if the mother is observing and not stopping her little animal’s bad behavior then I’m free to unleash the wrath of Gwen, right? Fair is fair. I’ll give Gwen some credit. Initially she stood back and simply looked at the girl as if she was a filthy animal, but three space invasions into the encounter Gwen let it rip. I saw it coming; my own little Norma Rae made it quite clear that backing off would be a really good idea right about NOW. As I leaned on the counter watching with satisfaction, the Mean Mom’s head whipped around, shocked that someone would dare respond to her daughter’s challenge. As soon as Gwen loudly uttered, “Stop touching me. I don’t like your face!” Mean Mom angrily met my gaze. My eyebrow rose in challenge and I welcomed her comment. She moved on with her little angel. Having observed the whole interaction, the lady behind the counter looked at me and whispered…”Well, weren’t they special?”

So here’s a little pearl of wisdom that I will share with my girls when the time is right: Mean Girls never go away. They will cross paths with you throughout your entire life. They’re a sad, nasty bunch. I was reminded of this last year when I encountered the most vicious of Mean Girls…the 50-something Mean Girl and her harpy real estate broker who I was forced to endure during the sale of our house. The ones who felt the need let us know that they were the Big Fish (in a very small pond). The same ladies who neglected to remove a childish Mean Girl rant about my family and home before they forwarded the e-mail on to our broker. Yup, they were a special treat.

For some reason, I’m not worried about Gwen…I’m even less concerned about Kate. Somehow, I don’t feel that they’ll be intimidated by the Mean Girls they encounter either.