So I was running to the post office to mail off two packages for some potential clients. I yelled for my five year old to jump in the car so we could head to the post office and then to pick up brother and yada yada. You know, there are always four other places to “stop by” on your way to somewhere. It essentially means we will be in the car for several hours, unburying ourselves from library books, bags of belongings that do not belong to us, and picking up ten other things we need for a project or party or whatever.
And so we arrive at the post office. I grab my packages and go to the back door to coax my always “slow to get out of the car child”. And I choke back some annoyance because he is not slow at anything except eating and getting out of the car. I make myself not pull him from the car. I make myself relax and know that it won’t be a better trip to the post office if I react to this situation. So I decide instead to hold his hand and say something maternal like, “Okay buddy, let’s go take the packages in.” Yes, I thought that was terribly important to the story.
And my son ambles out of the car with no shoes on. Okay, so he’s five and a half. It’s not as if this is the first time we’ve gotten in the car to go somewhere. But he looks down and is half surprised that he doesn’t have shoes on. And I, I am more than half surprised. I rarely do not specifically mention twenty times as we get ready to go somewhere—that he needs shoes. It is imperative that I mention this for this exact reason. One apparently forgets to wear shoes, and I realize he’s going to have to go into the post office without shoes. And I won’t be holding him. And the only good part is that he is wearing cute baseball socks… like most children who are homeless. But I’m only a tad self-conscious about it. 90% of me doesn’t care if anyone looks down on me. I couldn’t possibly do any better than I do each day. And that’s the downright truth.
And we go stand in line… of course, the ten person line at the post office in the middle of the day on a week day. Really?! So now we not only get to parade shoelessness, but we get to stand there forever, so bored people in line can spin stories about the mother’s ineptitude of the boy without shoes but with cute socks. Oh well, so be. As we stand there, an older gentleman walks up to us. He asks my son if his name is “Moose Knuckles” or something like that. The only thing worse than trying to be slightly under the radar and having to stand in line, is having some uber-gregarious guy behind you, trying to talk to your kid, thinking that “Moose Man” or whatever is SOOO funny. So you find yourself saying, “Honey, the man asked you whether your name was Moose Knuckles. Is it?”
And my son is aware that I am expecting him to be kind so he gives the man his attention, but he’s not really sure what to say. He knows it’s supposed to be funny, but he’s caught between my expectations and a response to his name. He says nothing. Great choice, Moosehead. So I smile at the man and say something like yes, “Yes, that IS his name.” heeheee.
Please don’t mention the shoes. And lucky for me, he doesn’t.
Instead, he pulls out a dollar bill and hands it to my son. Okay, now I’m embarrassed. He’s giving my homeless son a dollar so he can get some damn shoes, and he was being nice by calling him “Moose Balls” first. Oh boy. Am I paranoid?
I turn to the nice man and say, “You really don’t need to do that.”
He says, “I like to do that. Kids get a kick out of it. And if you save that up, one day you can have a lot more money.” You mean, if he saves his dollar, he can afford shoes? You mean, if his mom doesn’t drink his college money away, he can afford to do something more with his life than be a half-assed parent like his mother? Is that what you mean?
I looked around quickly, jumping out of my own head. I didn’t look tooooo terrible today. Okay, the faux ripped pants that I think are so cute aren’t helping my cause, but I don’t look homeless, right? Do I? And I realize I don’t know, and I probably need not care. But the timing was either really fabulous, or I had entered the zone where I no longer knew how far I’d dropped from being socially acceptable. And before I could think another thought, the postmaster called me to the counter, where I was grateful she could not see our feet.
We made it through the day, and it was really quite ridiculous. But I realized no matter how together I might be sometimes or not together, I will often question where that line is in the universe, where people forget to be socially acceptable. I will wonder this when I or my kids do something embarrassing, and I don’t know if I’ve pulled it off gracefully or just pulled a lot of pity out of the universe.
My son and I jumped back into our expensive car and drove off. Maybe the dollar store has shoes. Farck it. “Look sad, son, we’re trolling for dollars today!”