The Go-Between

This morning, another rainy Sunday in Portland, and I'm up with the birds. Okay, before the birds. The birds are allowed to sleep in because of winter's tardy sunrise. It's the wrong season for chicks to be in the nest, and so the wake-up call of the crows is rather late in coming. For me, my little chick is peeping in the black six o'clock morning. It's my morning to take Kiddo down and let Joe sleep in, and the next hour and a half of my life is spent hissing "SSSHHHH! Daddy's sleeping. You need to be quiet." like a snake with a broken tongue... SSSHHHH...SSSHHHH. Waking up with a cup of tea, making a pot of rice to eat with the eggs I plan on making later for breakfast, and trying to keep a lid on the noise. Joe came down and Kiddo pounced on him, ready to play, happy to make all the big sounds he was containing within, stomping and 'woo woo'-ing himself as he pretended to be different things.

We talked about our day, the plan of it: Joe wanted to get a run in, and then do some shirt shopping at the mall. While I hate the mall, I knew the optimum plan would be to get there by 10:30, because we need to be heading home to eat lunch by 11:30 or Kiddo is stretched too far. Joe, with his ability to be a food camel and go for hours without eating, often forgets that he possesses a magical ability our son doesn't. Once again, I telegraph the needs of the one to the other, and our morning begins in full swing.

Later, on the way out of the bathroom, I hear my husband on the phone with his folks, talking about recent events in the news. A reminder to him: "Be mindful of your audience." He looks at Kiddo, playing nearby with a Tinkertoy crane we built earlier and then changes the subject of the conversation. Ten minutes pass, and I remind him of what he had planned earlier. He wraps up the call, thanks me (because this is my job, keeping the family running) and hops in the shower.

Why did we all go to the mall? I still don't know. Joe heads off to shop; I've already made a plan to just walk around with Kiddo and see what we shall see. The mall is waking up, we are taking advantage of the church-time lull of Sunday morning, and it is pleasant for a change. The busy, angry shoppers aren't here yet, more the agnostic early risers, families, the pace is slow. We walk over to the bridge that spans the ice rink, and watch the crowd of mostly-mature skaters practicing ice-dancing, partners in arms, waltzing over the cold slick floor of the rink. It is oddly sweet. Two ice dancers lead, then a woman repeating the steps of the female skater of the pair, and then a small row-of-ducklings pack of older girls following still, watching their teacher and doing as she does. It is remarkable to watch, but Kiddo is ready to move on. We meander into a bookstore, where I search out a copy of Vanity Fair, only to discover Justin Bieber on the cover, which forces me to reconsider my purchase entirely. Instead, we descend the glass-towered elevator and spend my fun  money on two rides on those 75cent kiddie ride machines--a firetruck and a race car. Kiddo's more comfortable in the race car, sitting down into something likely feels more secure. Then we wander over to the pretzel shop, where a kind-faced girl making pretzels sells us one plain one, taking the money from Kiddo and telling us to 'be careful, it's hot'. I ask her if we can watch her for a moment, and she makes a pretzel and we go. Passing by the photo booth, Kiddo wants to go in. Why not? For a moment I'm reminded of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe taking the day on Coney Island* and I'm amused at the thought of treating the mall as not a place of commerce, but our own personal amusement park. Rides, pretzel, photos.... not much different.

We head back to meet Joe, finishing our pretzel as we walked. I look at my clock. 11:20. "Mama, I'm hungry", my little guy says to me.

Well. Right on time.

*Reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids", a chronicle of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Shine on, Patti. Wonderful.


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