It’s 3:30pm on a Sunday. I finish feeding Joel, and Mark and I dress him and ourselves for the cold weather as quickly as possible, so we may run an errand, while Joel, hopefully, falls asleep in his car seat. Our goal is to kill two birds with one stone – we hope to avoid the dinnertime fussy period that can result from no afternoon nap whilst attending to some unfinished business that is picking out new throw pillows for our living room. “I don’t want Joel to choke on one of these errant feathers,” Mark recently suggested, and I agreed with his sentiments.
We’d tried to shop for throw pillows back in July, but I couldn’t do it on that July 24, as I was too concerned about monitoring Joel’s movements, and then the mission fell off the radar, because hours later I landed in the hospital for what would be my last (four day) stay, as I refused to leave without my baby.
SO ANYWAY, Mark’s wearing his “sleighin’ it” shirt, an oversized orange Nautica hoodie he’s owned since high school, and some grey sweatpants, and I’m wearing the same grey sweatpants in one size smaller over some neon green Adidas soccer shorts with a not-so-white, white North Face fleece over a black, Target maternity shirt and some navy blue Tom’s, and my hair’s in a ponytail, and I’m wearing no makeup, and my rough past 18 months is causing me to look… much older than 31, or like a former prisoner of war, and we basically look like some classy ass mofos, as we enter this high end furniture store – the type that makes you realize, “OMG MY HOUSE LOOKS LIKE COMPLETE SHIT – EVERTHING NEEDS TO BE REPLACED IMMEDIATELY.”
And, as expected, as soon as we enter the store, I’m distracted by a BEAUTIFUL lamp, and Mark’s holding Joel’s heavy car seat (because he’s 19 pounds now), and this saleswoman greets us excitedly like, “Heyyyyy!!! So what are we in the market for today?!” And I’m still staring at the lamp, but Mark is like, “Throw pillows. It looks like they’re scattered all over the store, so I guess we’ll just walk around?” And she answers, “Yes, but let me show you where to start – follow me!” And she leads us down a flight of steps, and as we’re descending said staircase, she turns to Joel and is like, “OMG – who do we have here?”
And Mark’s like, “This is Joel…”
And she’s like, “How old?”
And Mark’s like, “Four months.”
And, trying to divert the topic a bit, I make my go-to, obvious comment in my sweet, sing-song voice, “Yep – he’s a chunker!” But my efforts fail, and she isn’t taking my bait, and I can feel myself silently cringing, as I know what she really wants to know – I can almost see her brain formulating the question, the words radiating in her vocal chords (I’m describing this poorly) before they even come out. I can tell that, perhaps she lacks creativity as to what else to say, or maybe she’s one of those people who just.has.to.know.
“IS HE YOUR FIRST?!” she asks.
“No. Our second,” Mark answers nicely, but shortly.
And I assume the conversation will be over from here, but, unfortunately it isn’t.
“Ohhhhh! So you left your first with the babysitter?! So you could go on a date night?!” she asks.
And, because in our marriage, I’m the asshole, comparatively speaking, I’m silent, as I formulate my ideal response in my head, “Yes. This is how we dress to go on one of our first date nights since having our baby four months ago, because this is such a turn on. And we strategically picked a Sunday afternoon, and we decided to visit your furniture store with your $170 throw pillows. And we left our first child with the babysitter, but not our second child, because when it comes to date nights, we go big or go home.”
“No actually, sadly, our first child passed away just over a year ago,” Mark answers.
And this woman doesn’t miss a beat – she’s like, “Oh gosh… Sorry… So what color is your living room?”
Because it is completely normal to continue the throw pillow discussion upon learning someone’s child has DIED.
So we peruse the store for throw pillows, and we eventually decide they’re gorgeous, but too expensive, so our rapidly-deteriorating throw pillows might live to see yet another day, and I also decide my entire house needs to be redecorated, and this saleswoman takes all of our information, because, despite her awkward response to our answer to her question, we like her store. We like it a lot.
And our attention later shifts to rugs, as I would like to purchase a new rug for Joel’s room, and this saleswoman asks, “So, what color is Joel’s room?”
And I answer, “Well… It’s kind of a lot of colors… I don’t really know. It’s a work in progress. Joel doesn’t sleep in there. It’s a hard situation given that our first child died.”
And again, she stares at me blankly. So I offer, “I love that chandelier over there.”
And Mark’s like, “Call us if the rugs ever go on sale!”
And we leave, and though I may seem bitter towards her, I’m not. I’ve accepted that this is the way people are. They’re clumsy, and they make these inquiries, because they don’t know what else to say, and society conditions people to ask certain dumb questions.
But I’ll never be able relate to people like this, because, even before having Matthew and Joel, never, ever (NOT ONCE!) did I spot a woman with her baby in the vegetable section of the grocery store, zero in on her, and say to myself, “Before she exits the store I must corner her to ask her if this is her first!” (Yes, this recently happened to me too. *sigh*)