I close my eyes and all I feel is shame. That painful oozing emotion has replaced all of my internal organs, including the ones that I don’t know where they are or what their purpose is- like my duodenum. (I think it’s by my shoulder blade?)
This is bad. It’s worse than the time I tucked the back of my skirt into my tights at work. Or when the toddler at church grabbed the hem of my dress as I lifted her up to sing the hymns. Or even the time that I forgot to button up my shirt and went out in public. And now on top of my shame, I feel like I need lessons in how to dress myself.
Regardless, none of that compares to what just happened.
I was mistaken for a homeless person.
I blame it on the gourds, which is like blaming it on the rain only better because a person can kick gourds whereas kicking the rain will likely end with flailing on your back in a puddle.
I’ll start at the beginning.
We didn’t have a pumpkin, even though Mini-Tex had been begging for a pumpkin since they inexplicably arrived in the stores on July 10th. We didn’t have a pumpkin because I saw a poster advertising that there would be a massive pumpkin and gourd sale.
Who has pumpkins and gourds? Farmers. Ergo, the pumpkin and gourd sale, though not advertised as such, was likely a farmer’s market. So being a yummy, stay-at-home mummy who wears yoga pants all the time, even when the attire says “business casual” and only shops at organic farmer’s markets, I had to wait for the sale. Because what’s the point of being a yummy mummy who doesn’t shop at farmer’s markets? It’s like being Kim Kardashian without all the naked selfies. Who in the world would recognize that woman if she wore a shift dress and a turtleneck? It just wouldn’t be right.
I mean if the Kardashians all decide to cover up their cleavage and wander around in floral print muumuus, thus forcing pigs to sprout wings and crash through windows like oversized chickadees, that’s one thing, but I for one will not defy convention. Who knows what could happen? Also my husband windexed everything last week- our living room bay window would be the first to break in a flying-pig, world-turnover.
So dutifully, Mini-Tex and I hopped on our bike and headed over to the mall in search of the sale, even though it was cold, and snowing the kind of wet snow that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was the type of snow that merely turns the world grey and messes up your hair. I biked around the parking lot in search of the pumpkin sale. No sale. I biked over to the other parking lot. An unnecessary gesture since the other parking lot was visible from the first one but I was leaving no stone unturned. No sale.
This wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the fact that I promised my son pumpkins. Lots of pumpkins. And if you thought airborne hogs careening into windows was trouble, you have not seen a toddler scorned. It’s like Pompeii only without the nice part where everyone turns to ash, because as a parent you have to live through all the shrieking and then serve supper afterwards.
So we did the thing I dread most. We went into the mall. On a weekend.
In a city, this is a bad idea because malls are chockablock with teenagers who are liable to Snapchat you racing after a runaway shopping cart containing your son. (Not that I’ve done this, and in my defense, it was a windy day.) In small towns going to the mall is the worst idea ever, even worse than Kim’s pink hibiscus muumuu, because you will see everyone you’ve ever met in your life ever. And if you’re me, you will not remember their names, who they are or anything about them. But they will know every single detail of your life.
But in we went. Fortunately it was my lucky day. I saw no one I knew. Meaning that at least eight people saw me and were like “Why didn’t she say hi?” Even better, diapers were on sale. Massive sale. Good news for people like myself who are expecting feces squirting bundles of joy shortly. So I loaded up, forgetting that I had only had twenty bucks on my person rather than my wallet.
So we roll up to the checkout with our two pumpkins and diapers. Behind us in line is an elderly gentleman who had eyed our bike as I parked it. But, I didn’t know him so that was fine.
Now for those of you at home, I need to describe what I was wearing. Does anyone remember the part in Uncle Buck when John Candy describes the hatred his friends had for his hat?
I was wearing one of those garments. Bright yellow, red and blue, it was nicknamed the circus coat by my friends because it’s so large and garish that at any moment, an elephant sporting a feathered headdress might emerge from its side zipper.
It was my mother’s coat thirty years ago. In the eighties, when looking like a neon walking advertisement for Las Vegas attractions was acceptable. Since then, the coat has acquired thirty years’ worth of stains, some of which won’t come out, along with enough hatred to start a religious war. But still I wear it. Couple that with my weather inappropriate boots which I favor because I can jump into them and the fact that the hems of my capri pants don’t quite touch my boots, I looked, well, odd. And also like the only place I can afford to shop is in the free bins at the local clothing bank.
Now don’t forget that it was snowing, so both Mini-Tex and I were looking a little bedraggled too. And then throw in my reference to the new baby. Also my son’s inherent cuteness. It’s kind of like when street people have a dog. No matter how filthy or questionable the person looks, everyone reacts the same way – “Ooooooo a puppy!”
Anyway, so I get up to the checkout, the cashier rings everything in and that’s when it hits me. I only have twenty bucks and that will not cover everything. It was one of those moments in your life when you’re like “A grand piano could squish me right now, and that would be ok.” All I had to do was ask the cashier to put everything back and I could slink out of the mall with my requisite humiliating mall story that comes with each visit. But no, that was not the fates’ plan for me that day.
The gentleman behind me stepped up and said “Anything this lady wants, put it on my tab.”
I don’t know if there is even a name for the shade of red I blushed. I kept stammering “No, no, it’s ok.” And then the man gently said “I have so many blessings in my life, let me pay it forward.” No amount of reassurances that I was also blessed could convince this man otherwise. The gesture was so nice it was painful. The man’s kindness was especially unbearable in light of the fact that I didn’t need it. I’m a person who can pay for my groceries, despite the fact that I look like a ragamuffin who sleeps in a cardboard box most days.
As soon as I got home, I called my mother. Who of course didn’t answer. So I was forced to call a less sympathetic relative-my sister. “Diana!” I wailed. “I was mistaken for a homeless person!”
“Is this perhaps a sign that you need to shower more than once a week?” my sister observed dryly.
Then thankfully my mom called. Unfortunately, she was also less than helpful; my mother thought that in addition to looking like a homeless person, the man probably thought I was a teenage mother. Which was nice, because I always need reminders that I’m short and talk like one of Alvin and the Chipmunks’ girly cousins, making people conclude that I’m younger than I am.
So there it is. All of my shame. I accepted charity when I didn’t need charity. And now I can never go back to the mall, ever ever again in my life.
Also when I previewed this post with her, my mother shouted into the phone “Fashionable! The coat was fashionable in the eighties!” She wants you all to know that she wasn’t a walking target for Us Weekly’s Fashion Police feature. By contrast today, I am. And ten years ago when I first started wearing the coat. But don’t worry; I’m going to keep wearing that fabric rainbow until the style comes back around in thirty years. It’s a good coat.