Monday, August 08, 2005

Interpreter Needed

Okay--so here's what happened.

An acquaintance of mine (someone with whom I must occasionally work) says to me a few weeks ago, "Oh! Your housemate has a toddler? WONDERFUL! My grandchildren have outgrown some things [my interpretation: all this leftover crap that's broken and/or worn out] --I'll bring them for you to take home!"

My response, "Oh good god, please NO! Absolutely not. Really--it's a very kind thought, and thank you for thinking of us--but he's got more clothes than he can wear until he's at least five [note of explanation: thanks to a doting extended family] and there's seriously so many toys he can only manage to get to a fraction of them every week. So seriously, no--I mean it: NO--give the stuff to someone who'll use it [my interpretation again: I don't CARE what you do with it, it isn't my problem, I just don't want to lug it all home and have to deal with it.]

Yes, I really said it, just like that. I smiled while I said it.

So the other day I see this acquaintance again. She greets me with the words, "I know you said no, but..."

Sure enough. Several big white plastic bags full of outgrown infant and toddler clothing. All of which she wants to unpack and show me. Several boxes of toddler toys, in varying condition.

NOW--before you start thinking me petty and churlish--I don't have children...I've chosen not to have children. It's sort of an accident that I'm sharing living-space with a toddler. It's much more fun than I would have thought, but still--it's an accident, and he isn't MY toddler.

I'm also not completely without tact, although "mostly feral" does come to mind again just now, for whatever reason. So I put all this stuff in the back of the jeep--in spite of the resentful looks from my dog, who must give up precious sprawling space to accommodate it all. I say "thank you" and manage not to grit my teeth too obviously.

But here's where it gets weird.

I get home later with this jeep load full of stuff. I relate the story to my two housemates--both straight women, one of them above-said toddler's mother. I'm rolling my eyes a lot while I relate this story. They just look at each other.

That was yesterday.

Today, I come home and find the toys have been assimilated into the other toys--but there are NEW boxes of toys sorted out of the combined mess, now destined for GoodWill or somewhere. There's also a box of toys set aside for me to fix, as I get time. Still others have been discarded.

The clothing? None of it will fit. Still, both of the other adult women in the house went over every single item, holding it up, spreading it out, exclaiming, "oh look how cute this is!" I saw them doing it. Several things were shown to me, and I think I was supposed to exclaim over them too, instead of furrowing my eyebrows and looking mystified and appalled.

Then it was all lovingly refolded and repacked and stacked with the boxed-up toys. I've been assigned to transport the lot down to a gently-used baby and toddler store.

So that's what happened.

Now, all day I've had this nagging feeling that I missed something crucial. Worse, I have a feeling that I was unnecessarily churlish and nasty about something that was, at most, a teeny-tiny inconvenience in my day. Even though I didn't actually say anything nasty or churlish, I thought those things.

But also, I'm sort of sensing a subtext between women--even mostly-unconnected, unrelated women--that has to do with child-raising and...and...well, I'm not quite sure just what else.

I've said for years that I missed a huge part of the cultural lexicon, because I skipped straight-girl summer classes--you know, where girls learn the ins and outs of being American women, and what to expect from themselves and others, around that.

I have this odd impression I was witness to an important community ritual, between women from two different families, who've never met. Something sweet and honorable and perhaps even a bit sacred. Something to be respected.

It all leaves me feeling rather an outsider, and it's an uncomfortable feeling.

Any of you moms out there feel like filling in some of this subtext?


Lisa Spangenberg said...

You got me. Sounds just like my sister though.

Mac said...

Oh thank GOD! Maybe it's a mother thing. I can understand being a bit outside of that.

Lori A. Basiewicz said...

Sorry, Mac. I hope you're taking notes of all these little things, though. One of these days, you can write a book of secrets you never learned because you didn't attend Straight Girl Camp.

Kira said...

I missed Straight Girl Camp, too, and I'm a straight girl! I think it's a mother thing, honestly.

I would have taken the bags directly to Goodwill.

Jill said...

Mac, I'm with the commenter, Kira - take the bags to the depot and get that tax deduction.

I will confess, however, that when I bag up my stuff (the good, the stained and the broken), I usually have three piles: one for friend or family to whom I'll ship or bring the stuff, one for the tax deduction and one for my youngest child's school (a Montessori facility that loves gently used or new toys/puzzles/books etc.).

Straight girl school? Ha. My mom was a hippie chick. I learned zilcho from her re: being a woman and she didn't know to send me to that place.

I'm still trying to figure it all out. Though most times? I just do ma own thang.

You go.

Anonymous said...

A Mom Here

Yes, it is a mom thing. Before being inducted into momhood by the ritual of "The Baby Shower" you cannot understand the subtle context of "OOOH that is SOOOO precious" in relation to some weird stuffed thing or quilted thng. I didn't. I waited until I was 28 (which really isn't that long now but seemed to be in the community I live in) to have my first child.

Also the passing around of outgrown clothes and toys is pretty typical if there's enough of an age spread in your circle of mommie friends.

Don't feel bad, it wasn't a straight girl camp thing at all. And with all the sh*t I'm going thru' right now with my two kids (who are out of High School and either not leaving home like I'd like or leaving home and abandoning me)there are days I really wish I'd not made a big deal out of the ticking of that biological clock. *sigh* This is a story for my own blog, sorry to take up so much of your space.

Mac said...

Good LORD, Dawno--don't apologize for taking up space! I'm delighted to have everyone weigh in.

I've got to admit, it's rather gratifying to find out I'm not the only one who missed this cultural indoctrination-thing.

Now, about this arcane and esoteric rite-of-passage, the "Baby Shower"...

Kira said...

Baby showers. *shudder* Those frighten me, too.

Anonymous said...

The "Baby Shower" is only the first rite of passage. I discovered that "Baby's First Birthday" is the really scary one.

Mac said...

Dawno, level with us. You've been sworn to deep levels of secrecy, involving cabalistic and intricate rituals surrounding those oaths...

That's why you're dropping these little teasers, isn't it?

Jill said...

Can I just add, really, it's not a cultural indoctrination. I think it's optional, completely, and I respect that.

You know what's really weird, after you become a parent? And I've wondered if I'm the only one who feels this way. When I see parents with younger kids, struggling with what to do with them, whereever I might be, I always think, ooo, they're so young, so new at this. As if, no one ever has children after you do, so when you see others with young children, it's almost, oh - that's so old!

Does anyone know what I mean? Or am I certifiable? (Sorry Mac - I'm such a bad hijacker!)

Mac said...

No worries, Jill. :) Conversations are meant to be fluid and living sorts of things, in my ideal world...or comments...or what have you.

I'm just so glad you're all here!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm slow too,Mac. Why shouldn't you be annoyed by someone giving you bags full of stuff that you don't want, don't need, and don't feel like dealing with? I'd be annoyed.

Baby showers? (shudder) I never told anyone I was pregnant til after my son was born.

And NO, I wasn't a teenager. I was 36.

Jenna said...

I'd have been a bit perturbed, too. But I also admit that my mom and I have been known to spend far too long looking at baby clothes for baby shower gifts just so we can make goofy noises and say, "ohhhh, that's so precious!"