A week or so ago, the girls and I finally dragged ourselves out of the house after days inside, hunkering down from the cold. We made our way over to the local Barnes and Noble, mostly so that I could peruse the knitting magazines on the racks, but also so that I could help them pick out a new book apiece. [cough] bribery [cough].
And let me just take a moment to mention Barnes and Noble as an aside. I know, they’re a chain. But as far as regular bookstores go, they’re probably the best brick-and-mortar place we’ve got around here. I mean, there are the wonderful specialty kids’ bookstores like Red Balloon over in St. Paul and Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis. Both great places, but without knitting books and magazines. There are the local yarn shops which carry knitting books, one in particular where I get a discount as an employee. They’re also great, but no kids’ books, and they don’t carry the wide variety of knitting magazines, and sometimes even knitting books that B&N often has. So that’s where we often end up on a reading-material outing, for better or for worse.
But back to the story. I picked out my magazines (first, before the girls got tired of shopping, and with the children’s section still out there as an incentive). We picked out the kids’ books – the girls pushed all the buttons on the noisy Elmo and Disney princess books which I refuse to bring into my house while I selected a few Valentines’ Day themed books, then traded one in for the kitty book Sophie picked out and the early-reader Cat in the Hat book that Julie picked out.
We meandered over to the checkout, where I mostly kept my girls out of trouble while waiting for the chatty women-of-a-certain-age ahead of us in line to complete their purchases. As usual, the sales clerk offered me the chance to pay a certain fee for the privilege of a member card, and I finally capitulated and bought one. We do end up buying children’s books and magazines often enough that I’ll probably at least break even. But the guy also pointed out that the holiday clearance stuff was now 75 percent off, and that with the card I’d get an extra ten percent off that price. Well.
I’d noticed some pretty good stuff on those clearance tables as I’d passed them by earlier, not realizing that it was 75 percent off by now, and at 85 percent off, I knew I needed a second look. There were some things in the pile I knew would be worth saving for next Christmas at that price. So we headed back over there, and that’s when it happened.
One of my readers walked over and introduced herself. Well, she came over and said hi, and she did tell me her name when I asked her, but my fried mommy-brain has since lost the information in the ether. She was a very nice lady, and not at all creepy in the way some blog-stalker people have been in the past. I can’t explain it. We had a quick little conversation, and that’s all there was.
Of course, in my mind, the thoughts went something like “Sheesh, I look like crap – but oh well, I make no secret of my everyday schlep on the blog.” Then, “Oh, I hope I haven’t been picking my nose or doing something else embarrassing…” you know, the kind of thing that would make a reader say “So THAT’s what she’s really like in everyday life!
And here’s the cool part. Having been made self-conscious in that particular moment was actually quite a gift, because it made me realize just what a great moment it was.
I was spending time with my girls having fun. I was keeping them relatively in check, but talking to them quietly and nicely despite having to corral them in a busy bookstore with much to see and touch. I had agreed to buy Julie a stuffed doll from the clearance section, Angelina Ballerina’s friend Alice was there for only a couple dollars, and would go perfectly with the Angelina we already had. So then Sophie glommed on to a big, green Grinch toy, and I was trying to convince her that she didn’t really need it. I mean, we already have five million stuffed animals, and a Grinch isn’t exactly cute and snuggly. But I was having fun trying to say no, and she kept saying “But I need de Grinsh!” in her cute little almost-three-year-old voice. And I realized that it was only going to cost me a couple more dollars, so I finally agreed because it only seemed fair.
And it was a sweet moment, and I might not have held onto it and come back to thinking about it over and over again over the last week or so if it hadn’t been for the nice lady who came over to meet me and the girls and say hello. It sure is nice, for once, to be caught in the act of being the kind of parent I want to be, with two little girls who are so wonderfully themselves.
Oh, and by the way, later that afternoon, we all three sat on the couch as I read the new books, except for the last one, the early-reader Cat in the Hat book, which Julie read, with very little assistance, aloud to me and Sophie. It was the first time I was certain that my five-year-old pre-schooler has taught herself to read, and I could not be more proud.