“We need to buy diapers,” I informed my spouse, “And Emily still needs pull-ups for overnights.”
“Alright, hmm…” he sighed and suggested, “Well, then let’s go to Wal-Mart.”
“Oh, honey, no,” I protested, “I am not in the mood for that today. You know I’ll end up losing my shit with those people.” You know the people I’m talking about – the people of Wal-Mart. The thin, strung-out man who reeks of tobacco and is mumbling to himself in the cat food aisle. The peculiarly cheerful middle-aged woman wearing a Looney Toons sweatshirt and still sporting the same hair style she had in 1983. I had no patience for such people today.
Shuddering at the thought of shopping at Wal-Mart, I offered another suggestion, “Will you just go then? You can drop Emily and me off at Barnes and Noble.”
“No, that won’t work,” he replied, “You don’t have a cell phone.”
“What does that matter? I don’t need to call you. Just come back to the bookstore when you’re done.”
He agreed, and I felt triumphant in the fact that he would be purchasing the diapers we desperately needed while I was joyfully allowed to browse the books I desired.
Emily and I first perused the bargain priced books, where she selected a large Doc McStuffins seek and find book. She insisted on carrying it herself, even though it’s 14 X 10 size made it somewhat awkward and challenging for her small two-year-old frame. “No, I do it myself, Momma,” she demanded, “Thank you. I love this book.”
We then visited the children’s section, where she was allowed to make one more selection for herself. She was now proudly carrying two books when we then went to the toy section. I was behaving as such a good mother would, first attending to my child’s happiness before seeking out my own interests.
She sat down on one of the plush children’s seats provided by the store and began paging through her brand-new books. I scanned the near-by shelves while she read, eventually asking, “Okay, Emily, are you ready? Momma wants to look at her books now.”
“No, I just resting here,” she informed me. “I’m good here.”
I gave her a bit more time, and then she finally agreed to look at the literature and fiction section with me. I began walking, with her following slightly behind, a bit slowly as she still demanded the books remain in her arms as opposed to the basket.
“Momma, wait,” she then yelled. I turned around to find her running towards me, then tripping, her books falling from her arms and crashing to the floor, her shoe being flung off with the fall, and my young daughter now on the ground in tears.
I attended to her immediately, but I also had an immediate fear that everyone in the store was staring at me – the bad mom. I wasn’t a bad mom simply because my daughter had fallen. I was a bad mom because her lost shoe revealed that she was without socks in November – without socks because she had an earlier accident at lunch. She had been in underwear for a little over a week, doing quite well, but of course she had pissed herself while we were away from home, and urinated so excessively that she soaked her socks. This bad mom had failed to pack another pair in the diaper bag. If a sockless, sobbing toddler were not proof enough I was a disaster mommy, what I then sniffed confirmed my current sense of failure. Apparently, when Emily informed me she just wanted to rest, she was actually taking a bowel movement in the middle of Barnes and Noble. I had forgot to pack socks in the diaper bag that morning, but what was worse is that I didn’t even have the diaper bag now as I left it with my spouse, not expecting to be separated that long, or for my daughter to have another accident.
Upon getting her shoe back on and wiping the tears from her face, I promptly ushered her back to the toy section. I sat her down next to the large Lego table and tried my best to keep her occupied and happy, desperately hoping that all other customers stay away as the smell of what sat in her pants only seemed to grow stronger with every panicked, passing second.
I started to talk rapidly and cheerily to disguise my own concerns. “Look, Emily, Momma’s making a house with the Legos. Oh look, Momma’s making a garage now. Should we make a dog house too? Yes, yes, let’s make a Lego dog house. Won’t that be lovely? Oh look, here’s a Hello Kitty doll. Let’s put Hello Kitty in the garage. Hello Kitty is so happy in the garage.”
I kept on maniacally rambling on, trying to ward off my own tears and pretend that my daughter didn’t reek of shit. I imagined that another customer must most assuredly be spying on me from behind the display of thick David Shield’s Salinger biographies. In my mind, social services had most assuredly already been contacted for the Mommy who was talking to herself when it was clear her daughter ought to be taken to the bathroom. But, what was I to do with no wipes or panties? And, damn, why wasn’t my husband here yet? Where the fuck was he? Did he get attacked at Wal-Mart by the mumbling man in the cat food aisle? Oh fuck. Fuck, she smells so damn bad. Oh Christ, they’re going to quarantine the book store soon.
I started crying then, no longer able to force back forthcoming tears. “What’s the matter, Momma?” my daughter asked. Something had to happen soon. I decided to make a bold move and try to run toward the door. No, I wasn’t abandoning my daughter. I just had to check to see if my husband was waiting in the parking lot. I couldn’t call him as I had no cell phone (although I had dismissed his earlier concern about this lack) and we hadn’t really been clear about the expectations for meeting one another.
“Emily, Momma needs you to stay right here. Stay right here, okay sweetheart? Can you do that for Momma?” She nodded yes, and I then told her, “If you get scared, I want you to yell ‘I need my Momma!’ really, really loud. Okay? Let’s practice.”
I don’t know why I had decided it was a wise idea to draw even more attention to myself, the hysterical mother whose daughter was emitting a royal stench from her underpants. For whatever reason, though, I had her practice yelling. She screamed, “I need my Momma!” and I told her it was a good job, also courteously nodding to the one woman who looked in our direction to ensure her my daughter had her Momma and all was seemingly fine. She awkwardly smiled back at me, and I repeated to my daughter to remain at the Lego table.
I then dashed toward the door to see if my husband was waiting in the parking lot. Just as I opened the door to scan for his presence outside, I saw him open the car door and approach the store. I yelled, “I need you NOW! Get the diaper bag!” I then promptly returned to my daughter, who was thankfully obedient and undisturbed, still sitting aside the Lego table and smelling to high heavens.
My husband soon reached us with the diaper bag, and the day was saved. I had avoided Wal-Mart for my fear of losing control, and yet it happened anyway in a store that I considered to be a safe haven. All should have gone well in a place filled with my beloved books, but life is always full of little surprises. Sometimes those surprises are regrettably located in your daughter’s underpants.
As many of you are aware, I made an earlier resolution to read at least fifty books in 2013. You can check out some of my recent reads and reviews here. No new books were purchased for myself during this shopping trip.