I begin my life of crime.
Took the tots to the mall today. One day I will have a hidden camera trail me, just so you can experience what it's like to walk behind my stroller.
People stop dead in their tracks. People do double takes that must hurt. Old men on benches punch each other and laugh as we pass. Little kids shriek. Grandma types come over to coo. Mothers either laugh or groan or simply grow pale. Very few people ignore us.
"Mommy! Mommy, lookit all the babies!!!"
"Are they all yours?"
"I'll bet they keep you busy!"
"Oh, my God."
"Holy f*&ing sh*t. Er, sorry, babies."
"What a lovely little family!"
I only go to the mall when I'm feeling particularly sociable, because there's no evading it. Today, Emma needed boots. Winter is around the corner, and the girl has no boots. It does not pay to wait. There will be nothing but dregs in another week, and Lord only knows that if I wait until December, the stores will be filled with nothing but sandals and cruise wear. Just TRY buying a child's winter coat in this city in December. In a mind-boggling display of denial and wish fulfillment, the depleted racks of winter outerwear will be gone, to be replaced by "we-wish-it-were-summer" wear. While I can't argue the sentiment, it is no help at all to the last-minute mother desperately seeking to clothe her offspring. In attire that will not attract the notice of the CAS.
So. Off to the mall for boots.
A quick stop at the pharmacy for a few small things before we hit the shoe stores. I pass my items to the cashier. "Oh, LOOK at all of them!" The cashier peers over the counter. Timmy flaps his arms at her, Emily beams, Nigel and Anna stare solemnly. "Hi babies! Hello, hello!" She slips my purchases into a bag. "Aren't they sweet! They're not all yours, are they?"
"Oh, gracious no." I point to Emma, loitering in the door a few feet away. "That big one is my baby."
Emma is so used to this exchange she doesn't even wince. She just smiles and wiggles her fingers at the cashier. I must have that conversation fifty times a month. It's a hazard of the job, but how can I complain? Babies do that to people.
As we leave the store, the security sensors bleep at us. We pause and look back at the cashier, who grins at the flapping Timmy once more and waves us through.
Off we go to the first shoe store where, Emma being her mother's daughter, we buy the second pair she tries on. It's not that we don't enjoy shopping, but when you know what you want and you see what you like - there! Done! Besides, with four tots under two, it's the ONLY way to shop. We don't indulge in recreational shopping during my business hours...
And then home. We unpack the babies from the stroller, the babies from their snowsuits, and the purchases from the bags. Bah. There is no receipt in the bag from the pharmacy. Those were business expenses. I need that receipt.
I've scoured my pockets and my purse and am considering going outside to check the basket at the back of the stroller, when I am hit by a thought.
"Emma. Do you remember me paying for these things?"
She stares at me.
"You know what? I don't think you did."
Nope. The nice cashier lady took my purchases, played with the babies, put my stuff in a bag, and chatted with me before waving me (the woman working on mindless autopilot with her four adorable distractions) through the frantically beeping security gate.
I look at my loot: a tub of diaper cream, a pack of vinyl-covered baby spoons and a couple of bibs. Total value, approximately $12.95. All mine, for the price of an invigorating walk to the mall and a few friendly exchanges.
A life of crime beckons.
© 2006, Mary P