“Ok honey, I’ll be right here on the bench, reading my book. Shop ‘til you drop.” I said with a smile. “Just don’t go to another store without telling me. I’m gonna have my nose in this book, and I need to know where you are. Your Mom will be here in a few minutes, and if I don’t know where you are she’s gonna kick my ass.”
“Nice language Dad!” she replied with a frown. “KK – I’ll be here ‘til Mom gets here anyway. Everything in this store is like it was designed just for me. If I need your opinion, can I come get you?”
“Of course,” I said, and I watched her walk into the Slippery Eel, or the Wet Dolphin – whatever they call it. I don’t really remember the name. I thought it sounded kind of suggestive and inappropriate for a place where a 12-year-old would acquire clothing, but I’m 51; going on 60…mannequins with boobs in a store where my kid shops seem inappropriate to me.
I watched my daughter’s little 12-year-old butt, along with the rest of her, wiggle its way into the boutique type store. I closed my eyes, rubbed them hard, and shook my head. How the hell did I get here?
We are doing the mall thing in Erie, PA. It’s a belated Mother’s Day trip – a week late due to circumstances beyond my control. My wife is looking at dresses, “by myself, please.” My son is waiting in line to do some bungee jumping on this trampoline thing, “because it’s awesome!” And I’m watching my little girl grow up…at the Slick Whale. We’ll have a nice dinner later, and head back home.
I take a look at my book; I look up as the people walk by…young families, with young parents. That’s the way to do it, I think to myself. By the time those people are my age; they’ll be sending them off to college. When my kids go off to college, I’ll be back in diapers. How the hell did I get here?
Back to my book; I try to turn the words into sentences, then a few sentences into some meaning, but all the motion of the mall is too distracting. I’m not necessarily in a people watching mood, but I can’t get comfortable knowing that I can’t get lost in this book. I’m watching over the pride…my son behind me, and the daughter in front, the mall is crowded so I’ll stay on high alert. I’ll watch the people and think about their stories as they walk by, and I’ll think about how the hell I got here.
I am not complaining…much. I am the luckiest man alive. Healthy, happy, reasonably well-adjusted family, a good job, house, three cars; I’m blessed beyond my expectations. That still doesn’t explain how I got here. For some reason, at this moment, I can’t stop wondering how it happened. It seems I just went on a date with this tall, blonde, nicely racked, chick…like three months ago, and then BLAM! I’m sitting in a mall, making sure my children and the modest contents of my wallet stay safe.
I close my eyes and rub them again as if there is a genie inside my noggin that will pop out and give me the answers. I don’t even know the questions.
I watch the man pulling the oxygen tank on its little hand cart and I wonder if he is thinking, “How the hell did I get here?” I don’t think I could go to the mall if I had to walk with an oxygen tank. I can’t think of anything I would need from a mall if I were in that state. Every step, and obviously every breath, looks like such a chore. I admire this man’s will for normalcy; he just wants to do some shopping. I bet there is an adventure for every line on his face. I bet he has some tales to tell. I wish I had the onions to ask him what he was looking for…here at the mall, and for the rest of his life. I bet the story of how he got here is better than mine. This guy knows things that I would like to know.
I watch the girls with the piercings on their lips, eyebrows, and in their noses, with their fluorescent dyed hair combed over their face. The girls were staring at the boys with the jeans hanging off their asses, and their flat billed baseball caps worn 45 degrees off-center. I look at the dude with the giant piecing in his ear lobe that leaves a three-quarter inch hole. His “skinny jeans” so tight the pockets are useless. I want to ask them questions too. Actually, I don’t really want to ask them anything; I just want to tell them some things. I want to share some of my knowledge of the world. I want to impart useful information to them. Things like flossing, and never ignoring your gums, always carry a handkerchief, no matter how senseless it seems right now.
I want to tell them to not be so quick to trust words of love. Someone can tell you that they love you 100 times a day, but if their actions cause you harm, worry, or concern, they probably don’t love you – they just want you to love them. Acts of love are real, words of love are simply words…I want these kids to know this. They should also know that it’s never a good idea to ask a woman if she is pregnant unless you actually see her child being born. If she’s wearing Baby On Board tee shirt, it’s probably OK too.
I want to tell them that they should never judge someone by their appearance. And then, of course, I want to scream at them and say, “Stop mutilating your body, and pull your fucking pants up! You look like fucking idiots! I have news for you! There is this thing called iTunes now! There are no more record stores for you to work in! You’re gonna have to get a real job someday, and nobody is going to hire you with all that shit in your face and a three-quarter inch hole in your ear! But I love your spirit and individuality! Hugs! Just say no!” I would calmly scream these things…with love.
I watch the young couple looking in the window at Crate and Barrel, I wonder if they’re looking for stuff for their first house or apartment. I loved that feeling. I remember years ago, walking into Home Depot to get some spackle, and about halfway down aisle 12 I realized that I was actually going to the hardware store to buy something for my home. Not my parent’s home, not my roommate’s, and not my landlord’s…mine. I wonder if it feels like magic to this couple, the way it did to me.
I see another young couple holding hands, and almost skipping into the pet store. Their excitement can’t be contained. I’m thinking they might be going to pick out a puppy. The puppy will be the “practice baby” before they try to make a baby of their own. I wonder if that feels like magic.
My son is about third or fourth in line now, his twitching shoulders tell me he’s getting excited. He sees me looking at him, so he gives me the thumbs up. I see my daughter, lost in the trance of retail stimuli; holding up tank tops and tee shirts. She holds them against her upper half as she looks in the mirror, then she tilts her head and shifts her hip to one side…the head tilt and hip shift will help determine the viability of the clothing. It’s like a science.
All is well. The pride is safe. I’m still wondering how I got here.
Then I see a Mom and Dad walking side by side, pushing a stroller. Inside the stroller sits a gorgeous baby girl, with violet blue eyes, and a pink Osh Kosh sweatshirt. Those blue eyes are looking with absolute wonder at all the bright colorful lights. She looks at the girls with purple hair and no faces, the boys with funny ears and goofy hats, and the Large Man sitting on a bench watching her and smiling. She looks right into that Large Man’s eyes and smiles a smile that would launch the space shuttle, and she claps her hands. And she answers his questions. She is taking in all the magic of life, she’s not asking how she got here, she‘s just happy that she is here. I think she was the genie that I was looking for earlier.
It doesn’t really matter how I got here, I’m here. So just roll with it, and enjoy the magic. Like a baby in a stroller. Let it be.
My daughter waves at me from inside the Slick Lobster, (whatever they call it) and stirs me out of my trance. She motions for me to come into the store, and mouths the words, “I need your help.”
So I walk in, she holds up two…uh…garments, and she asks me, “Which one of these short shorts are better?”
“For what,” I ask. “Are they like a bathing suit bottom?”
“No, these are short shorts! This is what everybody wears now.”
UGGGGHHHHH! She’s just 12. This is only gonna get worse.
Just roll with it Large Man…like a baby in a stroller. It’s magic…just let it be.
Thanks for reading
The Large Man
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