Just the thought of walking into a department store made my stomach churn. The air always makes my eyes feel like packing peanuts, even when I wear glasses. The lack of moisture glue my lips together--the combined result makes me resemble an over-sized seahorse. And inevitably, I'll see someone I know. The last time I took a shopping trip, I bumped into a neighbor. Two hours later I arrived home and found a care basket, complete with a "get well soon" card, sitting on my doorstep.
As much as I hated shopping, this trip was even more dreaded. I'd have to take my (then) three year-old son Joseph with me. Shopping with a young child is challenging. They get tired easily, and their whining would make even June Cleaver reach for a whiskey bottle. But taking Joseph would be even more trying. In addition to the usual toddler antics, he was diagnosed with autism just a few months earlier.
During the weeks after the diagnosis, I began to realize that my son's disability wasn't my fault, and there wasn't anything I could have done to have prevented it. But I hated venturing into public. I wanted everyone to see Joseph for the precious child he was, and not his autism. And every stare or snicker when he flapped or demonstrated echolalia ripped my heart a little more.
And on this venture, I was relieved to see that the Target parking lot was almost deserted. It was before noon and the college students choosing to stay in town during the spring break had yet to slink out of bed.
During previous shopping trips I've observed the bravest-looking of men break into a cold sweat and take detours around the women's undergarment section. My older son has done wild buck impersonations, flattening mannequins in his haste to escape the sight of bras and panties.
Joseph, in the past, has been content to use my best bra as a beanie for the cat's head, with company present. So I thought there'd be no issues with my grabbing what I needed during this shopping trip. I was wrong. Joseph became more agitated, rocking faster the closer I pushed him and the cart to the lingerie section.
During previous trips, my son discovered how his squeals and screams bounced off the wall of the store. Now he used this to his advantage. He waited until I was absorbed in my "perfect bra quest" before yelling in his best commercial announcer's voice "Oh no, this is all wrong. You need the Genie Bra. It lifts and separates..."
Startled, I grabbed the cart to keep from tumbling sideways into a pantyhose display. Oh please let me be the only one who heard that. My face reddened as a shopper strode by, eyebrow raised in consternation. For a moment, I wished to turn into a chameleon and blend in with the girdles. "Joseph, we don't say things like that..."
"It comes in three exciting colors!"
As he went through the entire commercial, I realized the hilarity of it. At that moment I realized that life was too short to care what people thought of me or Joseph. I leaned across the bar of the cart, enjoying the first laughter I'd had in months, gifted to me by the innocence of my child, and all because of a bra.
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Debbie Roppolo is an award-winning humor writer, in addition to being an award-winning children's author. In her spare time, whenever there is any, she enjoys embarrassing her children by showing baby pictures to random visitors to their home, and dancing in the grocery store aisles to Muzak.