Posted by Dexi
“Scarlett. Baby. It’s time to go.” I gently nudged the sleeping three year old, because you know, I didn’t want to poke the Nazi toddler bear.
To my surprise, she opened her eyes and smiled. “We on our trip?”
“Yep. And today you’re going to see some mountains.”
As I picked her up and set her onto the toilet seat, her squinty eyes locked on the window and out at the lake. “I see mountain water!”
“Well, Crazy, that’s water, but it’s not a mountain. I’ll show you later today.”
Without washing our faces, showering, or even changing our clothes, we hugged my husband’s grandparents good-bye, thanked them for their hospitality, probably said “love you”, and shoved our two kids into our B.A. mini-van, which has now survived two cross-country road trips and has acted as a birthing center for our littlest brat, Rogue.
Our ratty-tatty crew zoomed through the remainder of Iowa and into the most riveting state of Nebraska, which I will from now on refer to as Yawwwnnn.
Whilst pointing to all of the awesome things we saw on the landscape of Yawwwnnn, such as shards of semi tires and dead grass, we were on the hunt for a Menards. Ah-ha! The metropolis of Kearney boasted a Menards.
“I am not going into public. I have hair all over my chinny-chin-chin (see previous blog post Face It, World ), I smell, and I’m disgusting. Drop me off at a playground, or something. The girls can play and I can shave my face in a bathroom,” I requested.
So we did just that. The two little ragbags and I de-vanned on the side of a street. With us, I carried my toiletry bag, as well as a pink “To Grandmother’s House We Go” suitcase, which held diapers and outfits for the girls.
To the right of us was a birthday party, in front of us was the playground, and to the left was a stone building that I assumed to be the bathroom. I silently prayed to myself: Oh God, please let the bathroom be empty. A woman shaving her face in public is probably not socially acceptable, and it is not something that I am yet prepared for.
We trudged in with our entourage of supplies. Empty. Hallelujah! I fished through my bag and placed my shaving supplies on the sink. As I lathered my face full of water and conditioner, I had to retrieve Rogue about 92 times as she escaped the bathroom, and I had to continuously reprimand Scarlett for licking the grimy cement floor, or whatever deviant behavior she was engaging in. Hurryhurryhurry, someone is going to walk in and catch me shaving my face, was all I could think.
And I was right.
Mid razor stroke, a woman walked into the bathroom. And then her kid. And then another kid. And then another woman. I quickly buried my razor in my bag and got out my Rodan + Fields Unblemish face wash. I scrubbed my face as quickly as I could. Grrr! I’m wearing mascara, I remembered. And there was no mirror. Great. Now I would probably have black smudges all over my face and not even know it.
I hastily wiped my face dry with a paper towel, grabbed my crap, probably dragged my kids by their arms, and fled the bathroom. Safety!
But now I still had to dress the tots.
I was trying not to make eye contact with anybody, but I couldn’t help noticing that the birthday party crew was watching my every move and whispering to one another. Oh great, I was a spectacle.
I herded the children into a corner of the playground, amongst the wood chips, and pulled Scarlett’s shirt off. I opened the “To Grandmother’s House We Go” suitcase and plucked out a gallon-sized ziplock bag from within. I took clothes out of the ziplock bag and started to dress child number one. I’m sure there was flailing and defiance and screaming, as so it generally goes while dressing the kids. Especially when a shiny playground is right before their very eyes.
“Go play,” I instructed when I was finished.
Scarlett scampered off, and I started getting out supplies to change Rogue’s size 4 diaper.
A birthday party woman shuffled over to me.
“Hi,” she said, hesitantly. “We just finished having a birthday party, and, uh, we have plenty of left-over food.
I glanced down at my double-knee ripped jeans and my stained, 15 year old Dashboard Confessional t-shirt. Oh goodness gracious, she thinks we’re homeless.
“We have veggie sticks…”
The signs were aplenty. We were living out of a suitcase. I got ready in a public restroom. My kids did not look clean.
“And little sandwiches…”
Rogue was screaming and writhing as I fumbled with her diaper.
“There is plenty. You can take anything you need.”
“Thank you so much,” I managed to respond. “But we’re fine.”
“Are you sure? I’m not trying to sound rude. I just, um, thought you might need some help.”
“My husband just dropped us off while he went to the store. We’re—,” I trailed off.
“Oh. OK. But really. You can have anything you want.”
I searched for words to explain myself. But I couldn’t find any. I felt so stupid. I was paralyzed in thought and speech.
So I shook my head.
The woman smiled and looked like she wanted to say more, but walked away, back to her little gang.
I finished with Rogue and got out my phone. Then I thought, Would homeless people even have phones and Unblemish and Ziplock bags to put clothes in? I’m sure that’s a very ignorant thought, but yes, that’s what I thought.
I furiously sent Ben a message and typed, Omj. These people think I’m homeless. Like, really. Hurry up.
Rogue and I scurried to the swing set, where Scarlett was. The playground didn’t have a baby swing, so I pushed Rogue on a regular swing. Of course I pushed her little body too hard and sent her crashing to the ground. She wailed.
As I scooped her up I looked at the good samaritans again. They watched Rogue cry.
Eff. Now they’re going to call social services.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket to see if Ben had responded. He did! I opened the message quickly and read Lol!
Not what I was hoping for.
I tried to put on the best mother-act that I could as the girls and I played the hour away. The helpful gawkers eventually stopped scrutinizing my every move, and slowly everyone trickled away.
New folks came to the playground, and soon the girls and I were the only ones left of the original gang. We looked decent. I wasn’t getting ready in a public restroom while my miscreants ran rampant, and I wasn’t changing my kids’ clothes amongst the wood chips. I had broken through and escaped the homeless stigma, and I was no longer in a hurry for Ben to rescue me. We played with other kids and talked to their parents. I was feeling more confident.
When Ben pulled up in the mini van, an hour or so later, I loaded the vehicle and hopped in. I pulled down the mirror in front of me, as I always do, and took a look at my face.
Mascara residue. Smudged all over my left eye and cheek. Not the right side— just the left. Well, crap. So much for feeling confident.
I imagined the entire playground a chorus, laughing at me as we drove away— the laughs eventually reaching Colorado and ping-ponging off of the mountains that would soon greet us.
**And for anyone who is curious, this is what he bought at Menards.(But it costs three times less with Amazon!) They really are good for the ol’ sleeping when in a tent!**
**But when we are ready to spend a little more money, we would like to get a few of these.**