I have officially turned into my mother, which for the most part is a good thing. She’s smart, sweet, caring and she raised a great kid (my brother was awesome).
But, she also buys presents months before birthdays and Christmas and puts them in a safe place. Then she loses them. My birthday is in June and I’ve gotten bathing suits and beach totes for Christmas.
Months before my best friend’s birthday, I one upped my mom by finding Sasha the perfect present (I won’t say what it is in case she reads this) wrapping it and putting it away for safe keeping. Then I became my mother by losing it.
After a meticulous search of all the usual hiding spots, I gave up, piled my kids, Cooper and Ainsley, in the car and went downtown.
We live in an upscale Connecticut River town filled with two-hundred year old houses, lovely families and beautiful women. We have a large percentage of runners in our town (I watch them jog by from my couch). Spin classes at the local health clubs are filled with moms who are at school pick up (or so says my neighbor). And families crowd the Farmer’s Market selecting organic fruits and vegetables (I watch them from across the street at the ice cream shop).
I brush my hair when I have to, live in yoga pants (they’re much classier than sweatpants) and have given up trying to make my kids look like they model for Crew Cuts. When we ventured downtown to find another perfect present, Cooper was sporting a comfy pair of sweats with a Demarco Murray jersey, Ainsley was decked out in her best pair of pink pony PJs and I was donning a beautiful pair of black yoga pants with a stylish drawstring. We were a bright orange buoy in a sea of perfect families in our old-fashioned, New England town.
In our area, three towns combine to form one school and recreation system. Our town, let’s call it One, is presumed by some to be the most desirable, followed by its quaint neighbor, Two, and lastly Three. I love Three. It’s got one of the greatest musters in the country, a beautiful downtown area, and some of our closest friends live there. But, some people think of Three as One’s less glamorous step sister.
We chose One not because of its prestige (see above references to my lack of grooming or dressing), but because it has a phenomenal school system and our house is conveniently located across the street from my best friend of thirty-plus years. Remember Sasha? This started out as a tale about Sasha (anyone forty-something like me out there get the “Alice’s Restaurant” reference?).
When my kids and I wandered into a nice jewelry store, the owner tried hard not to frown when he was greeted by Mama Scruff and her Baby Scruffies, then too politely asked where we were visiting from. Somehow I refrained from correcting his grammar. “We live just down the road,” I told him.
“Oh,” he nodded knowingly, “you’re from Three.” While all these towns are small and close together, I wouldn’t describe Three as just down the road.
“I love Three. But no. We actually live a mile from your fine store. It’s a great day for a walk.” I hoped he hadn’t spotted my muddy car in the parking lot.
I swear to you, he took a step back as if he’d just heard the most surprising, horrifying news of his life. “One? Where in One could you possibly live?”
I almost busted into an air-banjo version of the theme song from Deliverance (Come on, sing it with me, Dah ding ding ding ding, ding ding ding.). This is where it gets really fun. Unbeknownst to my shabby-chicless family when we moved here, we’d apparently chosen to live in the fancy part of town. “Ocean Road,” I told him.
“Road. Ocean Road.” By this time, I’d been standing at the desk with my credit card in hand for several minutes waiting for him to ring me up.
He took my card and studied it for a moment, as if deciding if it were stolen. “What number?”
“Seriously?” I thought about it for a moment. “666.”
He ran my card and hurried us out of the store.
Twenty minutes later, as we were buying ice cream, I realized the shopkeeper hadn’t given me back my credit card.
Getting dressed the next day, I briefly considered blow drying my hair and putting on a nice pair of pants with a stylish cardigan before returning to the underworld to fetch my credit card. While I live in a pretty town with beautifully decorated storefronts and beautifully decorated women, I will always be like the game Imus’ sidekick, Bernard McGurk, plays. Which Doesn’t Belong and Why?
That would be me. Because I’m me. And, probably, because I’m a writer. And writers are a little weird. We don’t always fit in, we’re on the fringe, observing. That’s what makes us the eyes of the world. We tend to stand on the sidelines. So, I took my credit card from the guy and smiled sweetly. Someday, I thought, I’ll put you in a novel. And it might not be pretty.