Saturday, that special day when the mall becomes a haven for Stride Rites and Steve Maddens. Everywhere you turn there are strollers and toddlers and teens. The escalators are filled with mothers chanting “no, no Jimmy, don’t touch the railing, it’s full of nasty germs”. The food court is a vast wasteland of tables and tables of fathers trying to deliver bad fast food to 4 children from 3 different food stands. Grandma babysitting the kids at the table, while Mom tries to find one food stand that sells organic French fries.
As a casual observer, there you sit on the bench under the overly tall Ficus tree, thanking god you never had kids. While sipping your vente fat-free double latte, a feeling starts. Are you lucky that you aren’t lugging that too hip stroller out of the SUV on a Saturday for a jaunt around the mega mall? Your life isn’t easier because you don’t have to find a potty, NOW?
Life for you is easier, you surmise since you are free to come and go at will. No multiple schedules to check, no babysitters to hire, no grandparents to beg to watch them for a two-day jaunt to the Bahamas. Maybe. Maybe you are missing out on some secret. Maybe you aren’t experiencing your life to the fullest since you aren’t passing down generations of family wisdom. No one to teach the family lore of Crazy Uncle John and how he got out of WWI wearing a dress and a wig.
As you rise from your suburban oasis in search of garbage receptacle for your post consumer waste recyclable coffee cup, your foot becomes inexplicably entangled in an immovable object. You look down and to your amazement there is a two-year old boy, grabbing tightly to your ankle and wrinkling your sharply creased “wrinkle-free” chinos. The face smiling up at you, eyes shining brightly, sudden pangs at your heartstrings, a feeling of what-if. Children, to bounce on your knee, to teach how to skip a rock, shoot marbles, to build a tree house for.
Ok, so maybe there is something to this after all. The tale of the biological clock ticking isn’t a myth. How long is too long to wait though. Have you missed the window, will you be using a walker to get to their high school graduation? Those lucky people who found someone early enough to start the family, get it off the ground and give it wings, and enjoy their lives filled with the sound of laughter of children and grandchildren. Will you ever be one of them?
You look back down at this bundle of joy, miracle of nature, as you feel your eyes start to wet. The little face looks up at you, smiles, and then you see the edges of the smile move, curl, and open. The wail, the horrible, blood curdling screams emanating from what was once an awe-inspiring face. A mother rushes over, red-faced and embarrassed, trying urgently to pry little fingers from a vice-like grasp around your leg. The begging begins, and when the screams below you get louder, the bribery starts.
Finally, your leg is freed and like a deer whose ear is nicked by the hunter’s errant shot, you scamper away, thankful to be able to lick your wounds. Later that evening, sitting around the table top with friends sipping pomegranate martinis, you tell your tale of almost capture to anyone that will listen. Commiseration begins, and you all thank your lucky star that isn’t you on a daily basis, appreciating your fabulous single life a little more than you did at dawn. Gone are your thoughts of the next generation, your biological clock, and the bouncing on your knee. Gone is the vision of your earlier encounter, fading with every sip of fruity fabulousness. What you didn’t see was the mother, who as you walked away, would have traded places with you in a heartbeat, if only for one Saturday of single life in the mall.