Remember those several minutes at the party store? The ones in between choosing party favors and picking up balloons? Remember how we walked by the rows and rows of crazy hats and of course had to try on every last one? Remember how each hat solicited a ridiculous accent: an Arrghh matey or a Take me to your master or an I say ole chap? Remember how y’all skipped and sang and wanted to put on an impromptu play? Remember how I was right there with you, in the thick of it, ignoring both my lice phobia and the raised eyebrows of employees? Remember how much we laughed? Remember spinning and curtseying and doh-see-dohing? Remember how easy it was? Remember how it felt just like summer should feel and that we weren’t in a rush to do anything besides goof around in someone else’s air conditioning?
I remember. I also remember what happened only minutes later, though honestly I’d rather forget it. Can we go ahead and forget about it? Let’s forget about the mother of all tantrums that happened in the balloon line. Let’s forget about standing in the SLOWEST BALLOON LINE IN THE HISTORY OF ALL BALLOON LINES with a 4-year-old at my ankles kicking and screaming like a lunatic while dozens of families try not to stare. Let’s forget about the sweat beading up on my forehead and dripping down my shirt as I tried to stand firm and not overreact to the animal-child clawing at my feet. Let’s forget about how trapped I felt–wanting to bolt but knowing this was our last chance to buy Very Important Birthday Balloons. Let’s forget how much I hated my life right then. Let’s forget about the obscenities I screamed in my head. Let’s forget that I was That Mom.
Let’s forget about exiting the store with a gnashing, thrashing child slung over my shoulder, the sun bright on the cheery bouquet of balloons dancing above our heads. Let’s forget about waiting in the car until the screaming stopped. Let’s forget it was 103 degrees and that half the air conditioner vents were inexplicably blowing hot air on us.
Can we agree to forget about it all? I didn’t think so. Because really, who are we kidding? It will go down in my memory with spectacular and horrifying detail. And honestly the only reason that’s fine is because I also remember, with equal clarity, a summer afternoon a mere six years ago, in a similar store with a similar 4-year-old throwing an eerily similar tantrum.
And that child outgrew the fits. That child learned to be mostly reasonable. That child was eventually allowed to return to shopping centers with me. And you, my little Tasmanian devil, will learn too. And some day, in the very, very distant future, I will take you back to the party store. And when I do, we will head straight for the crazy hat aisle.