Tuesday, November 18, 2008


In Which We Shop Til I Drop...

“So...that’s called an escalator, which is basically a moving staircase. I’ve been told they’re perfectly safe, and the idea that people can get sucked into them and die is pretty much an urban legend. Just the same, you won’t be going on one for a while.”

I said this over the howling protests of the Éclair, who I found about 19 inches from the bottom of the escalator that ran from the airport lobby up to the security checkpoint. She clearly was fascinated with the thing and was psyching herself to ride it when I caught her. Now she was cursing me in her peculiar baby language as I carried her fireman-style over my shoulder (her head and arms outstretched behind me, screaming bloody murder, if you can picture the scene) out of the airport and back to the car.

She pouted and crabbed as we got on the highway and headed back toward home, but then she settled down and simply started saying one nonsense word, over and over. I finally realized she was trying to say “escalator,” but only the last syllables were coming out, so she was saying something like, “Lalayta. Lalayta.”

“It’s es-ca-lay-tor,” I called back to her. “Only four syllables, just like your name.”

“Name?” I heard her query.

“Sure. Elizabeth. You can say your name, can’t you?” I asked, not actually knowing if she could or not. Good God, I really did need to be alone with my children more often.

We drove the next few miles with the Éclair trying to say her name, but failing. But it was a calming activity, thank goodness. In fact, the baby was so serene I decided to risk taking her to her Friday morning Music Together class which, if you’ve never heard of it, is basically a music class for little kids (and their tone-deaf parents) who all have to sit in a circle and warble a bunch of saccharine songs. When I got to the hall where the class was held, I made a big deal of it to the baby. In hindsight, I was probably overselling it--to me it was an event, but to her it’s something she does every week. So when I got her out of her seat and she had a chance to look around and see where she was, she turned to me and said, “No music. Bizabet ride lalayta!” Sigh.

But then we got to class and she was in her element. And I was pleased to see that I’m not the only one she bosses around. During a lull in the music, the Éclair marched over to two windows on the far side of the room. A little boy--little, but much bigger than the Éclair--was standing in front of one, looking out. The Éclair went straight for him and gave him a shove. The little boy turned to look at her.

“My winnow!” she howled. The boy blinked at the fury of the little empress, but a moment later, he moved over to the other window.

Bad idea. The Éclair started yelling, “No! No! No!” and, keeping one hand on the sill in front of her (to establish total possession, of course), she shouted at the little boy and began waving her free arm at him in a terrific frenzy, like an aircraft carrier crewman waving a fighter jet off.

I finally shambled over and grabbed her, then apologized to the boy.

“It’s okay,” he says. “She does stuff like that all the time.”

Oh great. My baby has a reputation, I thought.

But the rest of the class was uneventful, thank you God, and we headed out to the car. It was pretty cold, so as soon as I opened the doors, I put my key in the ignition and started the engine, figuring it could warm the place up while I buckled the Éclair into her seat, a feat you have to perform standing outside our minivan and leaning in to the passenger area where the baby seat is secured.

So there I am, leaning in through the sliding door and buckling the baby in, when a voice says, right behind me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”

I jumped so high I smashed my head on the top of the door. I whirled around and there was one of the mommies from class. She looked furious, but alarmed too.

“You don’t start your car and then get out to buckle the baby! Haven’t you heard about the car-jackings going on?” she shrieked in my face.

I gave the woman a few moments of my patented deer-in-the-headlights look, then I said, “But I’m right here.”

The alarmist mommy was shaking her head. “It only takes a couple of seconds for a carjacker to jump in the driver’s side and take off. They’d leave you in the lot and take your baby with them!”

I just smiled sheepishly and thanked her for butting her nose into my life, then got in the van and drove off, thinking dark thoughts. I had already heard about the car-jackers who were reputed to be on the rise in our area, and I had thus far resisted the temptation to worry about it, figuring I could find plenty of real things to worry about this weekend while my wife was gone.

Still, I guess the mommy had a point. I suppose it was stupid to have the car running while I was outside of it. I resolved not to do that again. Especially with any mommies around.

It was still early in the day and since I was out and about and the Empress wasn’t screaming about her missed escalator opportunity, I decided to try and do a little early Christmas shopping. Her Lovely Self has been complaining about her lack of a winter wardrobe and I haven’t bought her a decent sweater in 10 years, so on impulse I swung into our local Kohl’s department store. I had only visited the store once before, on my hunt with the Brownie to find Ahsoka Tano, the elusive Star Wars action figure Thomas wanted for his birthday. At the time, I noticed they had some nice sweaters in colors my wife liked, so we parked and I carried the Éclair in.

It was almost an unmitigated disaster.

While I was looking for some kind of cart to put my toddler in, the Éclair bolted into a warren of shirt racks. I literally had to crawl on my hands and knees to locate her.

How can someone with such short legs be so freakin’ fast? I wondered, as I ran to intercept her. By the time I got to where I thought she was, she was already several yards ahead of me, running from department to department. I finally caught up with her just shy of the store’s small toy department. In the time since I had been here, the store employees had acquired a lot more merchandise, evidently expecting a holiday rush. Here was a boxed stack of plastic scooters. To my right, a tower of interactive globes of the world. We were surrounded by walls of teetering toys.

“Yizabeth want ball!” the Empress said, pointing at the globes, having evidently recognized in miniature the entirety of her domain. I grabbed her and picked her up in one swoop, but she was already lunging for a globe and brushed one. It was a box on a lower tier of the tower, of course, and when it fell, so did all the worlds in that multiverse. The crash was spectacular, and it activated the demo mode on every single one of the damn things, so that for the next three minutes, I was treated to an out-of-sync chorus of chirpy voice shrilling, “Welcome to the World of Learning!” Welcome, indeed.

I tried to restack the globes and keep an eye on the Éclair, who was now moving from aisle to aisle in the toy section, oohing and ahhing as she went. A store employee came over and thanked me for my pitiful efforts at retail display, but made it pretty clear she wanted me to move on and let her do her job. So I backed away, apologizing all the while, and trotted to the next aisle to catch my daughter.

She was in the aisle of Star Wars figures, where the Brownie and I had been just a few weeks earlier. Only the Éclair wasn’t looking for any specific figure. She wanted all of them, and began pulling them off the pegs and handing them to me. I kept putting them back, but she was actually faster and in short order a small pile of action figures was growing around me. I was beginning to feel a bit like Gulliver in Lilliput.

And then I looked at one of the figures and realized I had never seen it before. I glanced around and at the end of the aisle I noticed an empty box marked as having contained the latest wave of Clone Wars figures. I looked at the back of the package I was holding, trying to see if any of the proverbial Other Figures Sold Separately might be something Thomas wanted. There were about five or six, all of them ones I recognized from the Clone Wars cartoon, and I was pretty sure Thomas didn’t have them. So, with the Éclair still assisting me, I looked for the other five or six and got them all, figuring if I was wrong and Thomas had them, he could always return them for something else. Suddenly my Christmas shopping, for Thomas anyway, was complete.

Now I was following the Éclair down another aisle (only this time I was juggling a load of action figures. Why, oh why hadn’t she waited for me to get a cart?). This aisle contained toys for babies and toddlers and the Éclair was utterly captivated. As she made cooing noises over a simple box of blocks, I realized with more than a little parent guilt that my youngest child had very few age-appropriate toys, and what few she had were whatever hand-me-downs had survived her brother and sister. No wonder she had gone ga-ga for the Star Wars toys; they were typical of the kinds of toys she was exposed to. Stuff that was too old for her, in other words.

The Éclair settled on a box of stackable cups. With a great effort, she pulled it off the shelf and looked at me.

“Daddy get?” the Empress asked.

We made quite a sight at the checkout, me with a stack of figures under one arm, a baby in the other, with the baby holding a box large enough to obscure her head. I set everything on the cash register conveyor belt--including the Éclair, so she briefly got an escalatoresque ride after all. I totally forgot about getting a sweater for Her Lovely Self.

“Ready for lunch?” I asked as we stepped out of the store, baby in one arm, giant bag of purchases over my shoulder.

“Lunch! Lunch! Lunch! Lunch! Lilbeth wants it!” she hooted and smiled at me and I remembered why I loved her.

“Well, what L’ilbeth wants, L’ilbeth gets,” I answered back, heading into the parking lot to find our van.

But I couldn’t at first.

Not with all those police cars out there in the lot...

Ohhhhh....I HATE these cliffhangers! ;)
At least he's got the baby safely in hand this time.
NO WAY! All that carjacking stuff is misdirection, right? Oooh, you're storytelling prowess has got me again.
wow, your music together teacher lets you sit? i swear ours is more like jazzercise!!
Oh my gosh. I never have experiences like this. Probably because I get traumatized by just missing the right exit. You must have a strong heart.
oh dear God!

These stories are fun and nerve-racking. I was sure that EcLair was up a level and bothering security, but no...

and now, the police cars..

This is fun. Honest. ;)
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, child.

We should NOT let you go out unsupervised...
My, MM, I must say that your muse never keeps us readers bored.
Wha??? Please tell me you will finish this soon. Like now.
well, at least if anything happened to the car you weren't IN it at the time...
Sighs.... okay, will wait for the next edition to find out what happens....

The Blue Ridge Gal
Sounds like you're way ahead of me in the Christmas shopping department!

I'm hoping they caught the carjackers and your van wasn't involved at all.
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