The Baileys become, Those People

Before you have kids you think, “I will never be Those People.”

Those People are the ones the childless you observe “allowing” their children to misbehave in public, coddling their children with bribes (“If you’re good while we shop, Mommy will let you have M&Ms.”) and forcing their screaming children to do something they clearly do not want to do – like ride a semi-scary amusement park ride.

Not too long ago, Mr. Bailey and I became Those People. Full disclosure: I’m sure this isn’t our first foray, but it is the most egregious in recent memory.

Instead of staying home over Thanksgiving holiday we uncharacteristically decided to visit the most popular amusement park in theUnited States. We did this purely out of a desire to avoid the sadness of my first major holiday without my Mom. We had good reasons.

That’s what justified spending more than we should have on park tickets, hotel and food; the majority of the cost lying in the park-highway-robbery-tickets.

So when some of the most amusing of the amusements enticed, we tried to casually saunter into the line despite Prima’s mild protests. As we wove through the cavern-like line at a pleasingly brisk pace, Prima’s protests grew more urgent. Secondo, suddenly tuning into her kid counterpart’s anxiety, also began to chirp.

Mr. Bailey and I tried strategy No. 2 at that point: cajoling. We assured Prima it would be fun, we pointed out the other children in line, much younger than her, who looked excited: we mentioned out how smiley people were as they exited.

No dice. Prima’s protests became more urgent. Her already dominating brown eyes grew larger with fear as we approached the end of the wait to board. We could see dug heels lurking in Secondo’s eyes. (Prima’s dug heels are usually negotiable, Secondo’s are not. Ever.)

Rounding the last bend, we tried strategy No. 3: ignoring. Mr. Bailey and I talked about how excited we were, how this was our most favorite ride ever, how we were never ever scared on the ride. We expected Prima to quiet down and listen intently to what we said. Instead, she squared her jaw and began chatting, “no, no, no, no!”

Finally, as we neared the ride loading gate, we became Those People. As the park attendees eyed us sadly, and with the triple-digit cost of park tickets in mind, I took a firm hold of Prima’s wrists, and said, “Prima, come ON! Stop-shouting-It’ll-be-fun-I-promise-I’ll-buy-you-a-souvenir-if-you-do-it!” As she simultaneously shouted, “No-Mommy-no-Mommy-I-don’t-want-to-Mommy-please-no-please-no!” Mr. Bailey scooped up Secondo in the same moment this occurred, placed her in the ride and sat down with her.

Suddenly, I looked up to at least a dozen eyes on me as I attempted to physically push my terrified 8-year-old daughter into an amusement park ride. For the sake of – ahem – fun, and, let’s be honest, cost justification, and selfishness. Even Secondo looked at me, shocked.

It was the shock that got me.

“Let’s go,” I murmur, ashamed.

A kindly attendant gestured to her right.  “You can walk over this bridge to exit the ride.”

Mr. Bailey and Secondo unbuckled and hurriedly joined us for a whole new walk of shame.

It took several moments for the mortification to slough off me.

When it did, I saw the world in a new light: through the eyes of Those People. 

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The last sunset of 2011

Mr. Bailey just came in from running to the gas station for Mrs. Bailey’s tonic water to tell us there is a beautiful sunset.

This

The year sunsets as Mr. and Mrs. Bailey walk in the rose-colored twilight of 2011. Image by Modern Mary

being the last day of the year, the idea comes upon me to appreciate it.

“Shall we go take a look at it, then? The last sunset of 2011!” I say with urgency, glancing to the window as the hues in the sky seemed to fade before my eyes.

We hurriedly grab coats, slip in shoes, leash our dog and shuffle out the door.

The mountain sky is full of pillow-y ribbons of pink, fuchsia, orange, backlit with a deep blue of a waning day.

We walk into the cold, into the blue. Take photographs.

I photograph the girls, Mr. Bailey, then feel the need to be a part of this documentation. I turn the camera on me and point to the sky.

Mr. Bailey tells us we need to see the peak in this sunset light. We walk out further than I thought we’d go.

As we walk, I look at the photo I’ve taken. Half of my face occupies the bottom quarter of the image, along with my finger, pointing up. The foreground is my Mother’s ring, aimed miraculously at the rising moon. Somehow I feel, in this moment, the veil thinning and my Mother’s warmth, reaching.

Image by Modern Mary

Prima walks with a notebook in hand and writes a spontaneous poem. Secondo shivers in the cold, having come outside in only short sleeves and borrowed slippers.

Mr. Bailey walks ahead of his girls with our dog pulling at the leash, his stylish but worn brown corduroy jacket covering his strong broad shoulders, which have held so much of our sorrow, our fear, our grief this year. I radiate gratitude for his strength.

Secondo shivers as we walk; I realize I am warm and strip off my coat and put her little arms into the long, black sleeves. She smiles and says, “warm.”

We turn for home. I hold each of the girls – Prima, arm draped across her shoulder, and tell her she was a blessing to me this year, that she will always be a blessing in my life, just by being her. I pick up Secondo in my puffy black coat, she wraps her legs around my waist. I’m grateful she’s still little enough to hold like this. I whisper into her wild, curly hair, she has been a blessing to me this year. “I love you.” She says it simply, a statement, in return.

We head for home. In the pinks and blues surrounding I want to kiss my mother, not just her face, but her spirit.

“Is she here?” I ask aloud, “Does she see us now?”

“We love you!” I call out, blowing a double-handed kiss to the setting sun.

Without breaking stride, I wipe tears away, and move swiftly toward the entry to our corner of warmth and light in this world, into the light, and let the door shut on the year my mother died.