Behind the Name

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I finally asked my mother why I was named April. I’ll warn you, it’s not an exciting answer.

She liked the name.

And there were already two Mays in the family.

Pretty boring, right? I think so.


Little Lost Lambs

Today I saw two lost children, an unusually high number. It doubles my total. 

The first was a girl, about ten. She slowly exited the shoe store behind me, alone. She looked left and right, back and forth. No sense of urgency quickened her movements. 

She chose to begin her search to the right. A few minutes later she passed back by, hand in hand with a security guard, still nonchalant. 

They stopped at Best Buy and talked to an employee for a moment. It wasn’t long before a woman I assumed to be her mother arrived, walking purposefully and talking on her cellphone. She was noticeably irritated, but showed restraint until the security guard gave the girl a quick hug and went about her business elsewhere in the mall. 

Once the uniformed authority figure was out of sight, however, the mother began to loudly berate her daughter, phone still at her face, clutching her child’s arm with fingers curved into painful claws, dragging the girl along behind her. 

I saw no fear in the girl’s eyes, only resignation. 

I recognized myself in those eyes. 

The second was a boy, about seven years old. I saw him walking slowly by himself, and I hadn’t seen anyone with
whom he should have been in the last few clumps of consumers. As he neared, I watched his eyes widen and his panic rise.

When he was close enough, I asked him kindly if he was lost, already knowing the answer. He flinched and darted away like a feral cat. I let him go. 

I looked around for his parents or security, but saw neither. I fixed his description in my mind for security or police, whoever I saw first, but his mother beat them both.

She clutched her blouse tightly over her breastbone, her eyes brimming with tears, and she moved as quickly as possible without breaking into a run. 

I caught her and asked if she was looking for a boy in a yellow striped shirt. Her shaking voice said the words along with me, so I pointed her in the right direction and saw them embrace fifty feet from me. 

I witnessed no screaming, only mutual joy at their reunion. 

And I recognized my siblings. 


Poster Children

I saw a man at the mall the other day, while I was working. I recognized him from an interaction Abby and I had with him at Goodwill about a year ago. He happens to be in a wheelchair; I see that at the mall most days, though.

I remembered him because he talked to us. Abby pointed him out, wondering why his wheelchair wasn’t like Grammy’s; as I was saying that there are different kinds of wheelchairs for different people, he came up to us to talk for a minute. I’m sure he thought I was telling her not to stare, because his first words were that it was okay to look, that he doesn’t mind. Abby was confused that his chair didn’t have any handles for someone to push. He told her that he didn’t need anyone to push because he can push himself. That was plenty good enough for her. I smiled and thanked him, and we went about our business.

I truly appreciate that bit of chat. It’s not everyone who’s willing to be the poster child for whatever’s applicable. And I certainly don’t expect anyone to volunteer to do so. It’s a thankless job, for the most part. And it’s hard.

It’s hard to deal with ignorant comments. I do it to myself; nobody knows I’m depressed or infertile without my telling them beforehand. I don’t have to tell anyone. But I tell people so that I can respond to their comments and questions because I’m prepared for them. I’m ready. I do it so the people who aren’t prepared can maybe have one day in which they don’t have to listen to hurtful comments. Offhand comments that the average joe doesn’t think twice about before blurting out.

Smile.

Just don’t be sad.

When are you going to have kids?

Don’t you want kids?

But this guy has to deal with it every single day, without ever saying a word. He calls attention to himself by living his life like anyone else.

There has to be a huge difference between a preschooler asking why your wheelchair doesn’t have handles and an adult asking if it was a car accident. I know there’s a huge difference between a preschooler asking why I’m sad and a complete stranger passing me on the street telling me to smile.

Obviously, it’s none of anyone’s business. In any case. But there’s no escaping the sideshow freak mentality of the general public as long as you’re a part of the general public.

I’m not scolding, not telling anyone to keep their big mouths shut before they offend someone. I can’t stand walking on eggshells. What I want is simple consideration. Everyone is sensitive about something. Everyone has a button to waiting to be pushed. For the most part, anyone can have a civil conversation without hurting the other party’s feelings, as long as there’s that tidbit of consideration.

And there’s only one thing to be considerate of.

Autonomy.

That’s a serious concept for a three-year-old to understand, so we don’t expect it of them. An adult, now. Surely an adult can understand that it’s my choice, and my choice alone, to smile or not. Surely an adult can understand that, to put it snidely, they’re not the smile police. Hopefully.

Because there’s no such thing as the smile police.

So piss off.

Sorry, I meant to say so don’t presume that an autonomous person will smile on your command. Just don’t presume. If you have a legitimate concern, sincerely ask what’s wrong, and pay attention to the answer. If you’re one of those ‘but they’re bringing me down by not smiling’ people, then yeah, piss off. Because no, I’m not.

And if you absolutely, positively, will just burst at the seams if you don’t know why that guy buying cold cuts and sliced bread is in a wheelchair, well, I guess you’ll just have to burst.

But if anyone listened to me, I’m sure I don’t know what people who read the comments on YouTube would do for fun.


Welcome T–

Yesterday’s Daily Prompt:

Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.

I totally have this one. I looked around for maybe four seconds before it hit me: Geo Genius Interactive.

Abby loves maps. One of her selections at the used book store was a huge map of Europe. You can sit this child down with an atlas and she’ll spend hours pointing out whose house is where–nevermind that it’s a London road map and most of her family is in Louisiana. She gets in the zone.

When we make trips to visit my parents, or when they make trips to visit us, there’s usually some kind of hand-me-down making the trip. One such item from last year was this:

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It was originally my brother’s, the one who’s 22 now. He’d push buttons and push buttons and push buttons, and I don’t know if he ever really learned anything from the poor toy, aside from the least amount of words it will say. If you rapidly push the power button, you get “Welcome t–See you later!” I cannot possibly tell you how many times I’ve heard that.

He got bored with it, and my youngest brother took over. Again with the “Welcome t–See you later!” He wasn’t much of a geography buff either.

But Abby. We still laugh about her trying to correct my stepdad about a year ago. He was telling a story about Houma, the city in south Louisiana. Abby was practically bouncing out of her booster seat calling his name, trying to get his attention. Finally, all eyes were on her. “Did you mean Oklahoma?” She was so proud of herself.

She loves this poor little map. To pieces. Her favorite is the pronunciation of “the commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

But we do sometimes get a little tired of hearing “Ala-ala-al-al-al-Alabama.”


Tossing Cookies

The second week of school was when the conduct calendar first showed its dirty face.

We had no foreknowledge of this event, so when I opened Abby’s folder I was terribly amused at what I saw.

“Did you do anything at school today that you weren’t supposed to do, Abby?”

“No.” Completely guile free.

“Anything you got in trouble for?”

“No.” Still no clue of what I’m getting at.

“Did you maybe throw cookies?”

“No…well, they weren’t my cookies.”

Well that makes it okay! Cue laughter.

“Did you throw someone else’s cookies at snack time?”

“Yes.” Very mild chagrin.

“Thank you for not throwing your cookies, but it’s not nice to throw anyone else’s cookies, either, okay?”

“Okay.” And we’ve shrugged it off.

The next morning:

“I’ll be good today. I won’t throw my cookies or anybody else’s cookies.” Very earnest and pleased with herself.

“Thank you.”

True to her word, every day since has been a green/good day.


Damn Dirty Apes

The final prompt for NaBloPoMo:

Tell us one memorable moment from August.

Oh, I have one.

I’ll be writing soon about school; Abby started pre-k this week. But this little anecdote can’t wait any longer.

We picked her up from her second day. After I got her buckled in and we left the parking lot, I took her purple folder from her Frozen backpack.

I noticed a new addition: a sheet of paper with two monkeys at the top was taped to the front, Abby’s name clearly printed in the middle. This was an upgrade from the smaller name markered on the top right corner.

“Oh, look at this!” I exclaimed, trying to be upbeat even though pre-k is the saddest thing ever. It’s hard, y’all.

I turned to look at Abby in her booster seat. She crossed her arms and made a stern, grumpy face. Totes adorbs.

“I hate monkeys,” she declared, in an odd but effective mixture of deadpan vehemence.

I wish I could type in her tone of voice. The emotion ran much deeper than the average I hate you proclamation that follows being sent to the corner, yet was nearly as flippantly casual as an average I hate Brussels sprouts type of comment.

It was utterly priceless.

Ian and I could not contain our mirth for a few seconds. After we regained our composure, Ian suggested that we remove the offensive primate label.

“My teacher said don’t take it off.”

I had to give Ian the stink-eye. I know what a challenge sounds like to him.

We agreed to just not look at the stupid monkeys.

I hate monkeys has become our latest catchphrase.

Good times.