Saturday, April 3, 2010

Who Wouldn't Sit Still for Junk Food?

Inside a cute little coffee shop in Chelsea yesterday morning I had my laptop and giant, ridiculously hot coffee perched on a tiny table. Alex was home with Wally, and I was set to meet my editor for what felt like a late afternoon (8:45 AM) meeting. One of the best ways to steal a little time for myself, I've learned, is to leave early for legitimate appointments and stop somewhere along the way.

At the table next to me, a mom had set up camp with a baby who sat quietly in a chair while her mom ordered a coffee and muffin at the counter. The little girl was maybe two feet from a propped-open door onto 7th avenue in a regular adult chair, as in, not confined in any way. When her mom returned she proceeded to sit there in the most civilized fashion, eating breakfast and maybe at most dropping a few crumbs.

“She’s so good,” I marveled, taking the lid off my coffee. “How old?”

“Fourteen months.”

“That’s amazing."

“It’s the novelty,” said the mom, shoulders hunched over a bit in this sort of goofy, mock-humble way. “She’s not usually like this.”

I looked out the open door, the taxies whizzing past. The mom stood up to get a napkin, not that there appeared to be any real need for one. We talked about the fiery coffee, the impossibility of drinking it any time soon. I told her I had a toddler also, one I’d never seen in the sitting position, at least not by choice.

“It’s the junk food. I’m giving her a muffin.” Shoulders hunched even further now and little, forced laughs in between each sentence. Her voice dropped low in a “we-can-all-relate-to-this” kind of tone. “Who wouldn’t sit still for junk food, you know?” she looked sort of at me but more behind me.

“I CAN THINK OF ONE PERSON!”

I said to myself, of course.

And of course I was being ridiculous. Surely this woman had her own share of unwieldy outings and angry stares from strangers. Or worse, maybe her kid is so good she sits nicely like that even at a playground or water park. I look at her and think: “Why won't she just admit how easy she has it?" But if she saw Wally running and giggling all over the playground while she couldn't get her motionless offspring to come out of the stroller, she'd think the same of me.

I was extra careful packing up my stuff to leave, putting the cap back on the scalding coffee still full up to the top. To be honest, I am always spilling and dropping and bumping even without Wally so partly the chaos was there all along.

I walked down to ABRAMS, surprised that it was already so warm. It was the novelty. It was the junk food. The door was open to a street where 2,000 cars at least must pass by in an hour. So either that little baby has sat nicely in a chair without so much as a wiggle each and every time she’s been asked to or that woman missed her calling as a world class poker player willing to bet the whole pot without so much as a blink.

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