One week before Mother’s Day, I took the Bairn to our mutual favorite store: the Home Depot. SWMNBB has a standing appointment that cuts right through our Saturday morning and the Bairn and I usually spend that time at the downtown Silver Spring library or one of the dozen or so good county parks around our neighborhood and that was our plan for that Saturday.
The night before, however, I had received a marketing email from Home Depot outlining the DIY workshops they had available in our local. This included a selection of Kids only workshops, with one specifically advertised as a chance to build Mom something nice for Mother’s Day: a wooden windmill planter.
SHE loves the kid’s art and projects, so there was no doubt that this would be a Good Think to Do. But this Father and Husband is no dummy. A home-made gift from the hands of our wee one is necessary, but not sufficient. Flowers and breakfast and dinner1 are essential parts of giving thanks for the women who have sacrificed (bodies, rest, careers, autonomy, identity, etc.) to create shiny new people. But the Bairn loves projects and the Home Depot, so I thought it would be a good way to spend an hour or so, creating an object, together, for the most important person in our lives.
And it was.
I’m not sure why I expected this thing to be different from other so-called “free” Parent/Child events in the Washington DC metroplex , or why I believed 9am was an early start. When we arrived, we queued up at the end of a line. A long line, running from a classroom, past a hall of lockers, through double doors marked “Associates Only Beyond These Doors.” A long line of parents, their relatives and friends, with toddlers and kindergartners and first graders in tiny orange Home Depot aprons.
“Free” events create within me an extraordinary amount of anxiety (but so does crossing the street, so there it is). There is absolutely nothing that I want for so much for myself, for free, that I will wait longer than 5 minutes in a line. I’d just as soon pay for those movie tickets or signed Blu-Ray or sample bag of mid-grade shopping mall chocolate.2 With parenthood comes lines for activities that bring the Wee Bairn great joy. That brings us great j oy. So we stood in an absurd line to make Mother’s Day handicrafts, compliments of a multi-billion dollar corporation.
It’s not lines themselves that prime my anxiety pump. It’s the people, naturally.
The Social Justice Warrior side of my personality kind of likes the idea of lines, that people, regardless of race, creed, social strata, are forced to queue up in order of arrival. That we’ve all agreed that the person who showed up first at 4am deserves to be first through the gate and that the person who showed up 5 minutes after the gate opened risks only a shitty seat or empty hands. Lines are democratic.
But I’m not stupid or so naive as to believe that everyone knows that they are equal to the woman in front of them. And that little bugger on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, tells me again and again that the family in front of us is going to take the last one, the last spot, the last balsa wood windmill, and the Bairn will cry and I will be angry. Fuck them, he says. Jump the queue, he says. Or better yet, walk away, that’ll show em! Complain to the manager!
I shut that noise down. With great effort. That little man on my shoulder hunts Joy and Happiness and eats them with mustard. He breeds; I know how I acquired mine and I’ll be damned if I give the wee Bairn his clone.
Being present, mentally and physically, with my Bairn, in that moment, is the only way to crush that little fucker.
Not everyone knows that.
- On Mother’s Day proper I was back at the HD. I bought a new gas grill. Members of the public might assume that this was a gift only for myself. Not so. As the West Indian gentleman who helped me load the thing in my CR-V (and who would not take a tip) said “Looks like someones cooking Mother’s Day Dinner.” And dinners for the rest of time, my friend. ↩
- Boo in the Zoo ↩