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The mother and daughter stand in line; she is dressed in frumpy clothes and she is embarrassed by her. This becomes more and more apparent. Mother cannot make up her mind about croissants. “Two almond, two regular, two chocolate — no, three chocolate. And then just one regular. [To daughter] Do you think Tim will eat an almond?” We are many behind her and daughter is getting anxious. We are many and mother is just taking her time: can’t she see all of us? This tightening twist is apparent in her increasingly snippy tone. “Can’t we just get them and go?” She rolls her weight from foot to foot, teeteringlike. She looks like she has to piss. But mother wants a berry pie too: they are $15 dollars, and, I suspect, delicious. (I am, unfortunately, only here for the mediocre croissant, so that I can complete my Saturday ritual and stare and the North Meadow.) I imagine little anxious narratives running through the little girl’s head: I’ve told these stories myself. She is at that age when everything weighs so heavily: looks from others, the failures of her parents, her own faults. It is a gangly time. But they are getting delicious pie.

This is a momentous thing; it is a difficult thing. Pie! How to get it home? The counterperson can sense it. “Do you want a bag?” The mother declines and tries to open up her recycled green fiber market tote. “Can’t we just take a bag?” The line — that is, we — are crushing the girl. So many we are. Again the mother says no and tries to open the bag so the daughter can put the pie in. But it doesn’t work, because mother is holding it vertically. And pies travel best on the horizontal. Frustration ensues. “Just open the bag mom — mom!” They cannot get it in. And then it slides, slides right out of its flimsy little box, splatting all over the bag. The daughter is horrified. Not only has her mother been making us wait (typical, typical momlike behavior), but now we’ve all watched as she, awkward girl, splatted a delicious, purple and gooey berry pie. Now we know she is a klutz! You get the sense, if you’ve got any empathy anyway, that it is that embarrassment, that sense of shame that makes her storm off (for all of ten feet) saying “See! That’s why you take the bag.” It is as if she will cry. And you get the sense, too, that mother, in spite of her care, is very, very hurt by this.

Children. I want several.

Categories: Anecdotes.

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