Thanks to my friend Carol’s generous hand-me-downs, Leta was finally able to let her guard down and fall in love with a pair of pants, a set of black cotton/spandex leggings that she once wore seven days in row despite the fact that they were emitting a visible green odor. Can’t blame her too much for that learned behavior, though, because the two adult people in her life can sometimes go the same amount of time in one t-shirt. This is what happens when you work from home, all of a sudden your idea of dignity is having brushed your teeth at least once today. Or having successfully prevented yourself from picking your underwear out of your ass when you walked out to the driveway to pick up the newspaper.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I pick Leta up at school after showering and applying mascara she always says something to the tune of, “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?” I don’t know, Leta. I guess I was feeling ambitious.
Those pants have not surprisingly worn thin, and last weekend I realized we couldn’t go another day without upgrading her wardrobe. She’d grown out of almost everything, and most of the dresses that still fit over her head were much too flimsy to give her any warmth during cool weather. Meaning she needed new everything, including new shoes even though her father would have been very happy to see her wear socks with her pink clogs. Socks. With clogs. I can see her classmates now asking the teacher why she always shows up dressed like an overweight tourist. And the teacher would say, “Haven’t you seen her father?”
We were desperate, which was the only reason I was willing to take Leta shopping in the first place, let alone during an unusual downpour. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Jon needed to finish up some work, so I offered to take her by myself. No big deal, parents do this all the time. In fact, I know my sister has done this with all five of her kids, by herself, more than at least a dozen times and she still has all ten fingers. I have done this myself, but choose not to do it often because this situation causes my brain to go missing and I rather like having it nearby.
So I dressed her in her favorite black pants and a coat from last season, one so small that I could not zip it up over her belly, and dug through the closet in the entryway looking for an umbrella. During my search I found the princess umbrella my mother had given Leta for Christmas, and before I could dispose of it she saw a flash of pink go dashing behind my back.
“Is that my princess umbrella?” she asked.
“What, this?” I asked without showing it to her.
“Behind your back, there, my princess umbrella. I want my princess umbrella,” she continued.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I answered. “I’m holding a Coco umbrella. It’s got pictures of Coco all over it.”
“Mom,” she said. “That’s my princess umbrella.” And before I could toss it back into the dark closet she ran around, grabbed it out of my hands, and then proceeded to die and go to heaven. So not only was I about to go shopping in the rain with a kid, I was about to go shopping in the rain with a kid AND HER PRINCESS UMBRELLA. Not unlike, I imagine, going shopping in the rain with a kid and her poisonous snake.
Rain was coming down so hard that even with the windshield wipers turned as high as they would go I could barely see the car in front of me. I parked about fifty yards from the door of the clothing store and calculated that we’d get only moderately wet if we shared my large umbrella. But that did not at all resemble the details in her day planner, no. In fact, next to line item 12 NOON it said: TAKE SHOWER FULLY CLOTHED, and after ten minutes of haggling with a broken princess umbrella and failing to convince her of its brokenness, I just let her carry on with her plans. Inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter, she moved her feet through the wet parking lot as slowly as she could make them go, all while a pathetic Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty drooped limply over her head. She looked like a sad Halloween costume, like her mother was so stubborn and cheap that at the last minute she pulled out a broken umbrella and said, “PUT THIS ON!”
I could not convince her to pick up the pace whatsoever, and every five steps or so she’d stop and wail into the vinyl covering her head. “IT’S RAINING ON MEEEEEE!” she’d scream. And nothing I said could ease that reality. No suggestion could remedy the situation. We were all going to die right there in the parking lot underneath our broken umbrellas, and she was so resigned to that fate that she was going to be disappointed if it didn’t happen. So I picked her up, broken umbrella still draped over her head, balanced her with the arm that wasn’t holding my own umbrella, and ran into the store. By the time we were inside we were both drenched from head to toe, and as we walked toward the shopping carts she asked me if she could take off her pants, and I was all, Leta, this is not Bartlett, Tennessee.
An hour and two heaping bags of 5T clothing later we headed back out into the rain, but not before I had explained that we were just going next door and would not need to use our umbrellas. This information was not processed successfully, and when I took off running she planted her feet like tree roots into the concrete on the sidewalk and refused to move. Again with the refrain, “IT’S RAINING ON MEEEEEE!” I won’t lie, something happened to me, and my mouth shriveled up like I was a ventriloquist. Anyone who was watching would not have known that I was the one hissing, “GET. OVER. HERE. RIGHT. NOW. YOUNG. LADY.” They would have thought that I was just standing there looking very unpleasant. And later on they would have said to each other, “Yeah, it was like this voice came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden it started going on and on about how starving children in Africa would love to have a shoe store right next to a clothing store, and that rain on your head? Sometimes THAT’S ALL THE WATER THEY DRINK IN A YEAR. Yeah, and then I think it growled.”
I had to pull the same maneuver to get her into the shoe store, except this time I had two extra large bags added to the balancing act. And there I was holding my purse, two dripping umbrellas, and two huge shopping bags, and before I could get my bearings I turned around to find Leta in the floor trying to get her pants off. So I made the executive decision to run and find two pairs of sneakers in her size while she fiddled with her clothes, because there was no way on earth she was going to be able to pry off those wet pants, I’d just let her occupy herself with that puzzle while I made myself useful. I grabbed a generic pair and pair decorated with Dora the Explorer and had them both paid for before she had her first clog off, and then armed with yet another unwieldy bag I picked her up and ran for the car. When we got home Jon commented on Leta’s cute new shoes asked if I had taken the time to let her try them on while we were in the store. And that’s when a broken princess umbrella was thrown at his head.