Jan 5, 2013

Fellatio in Aisle Three

Posted by Tonia at Saturday, January 05, 2013

Estrofests is thrilled to have Candace Walsh as a guest blogger to share her most inglorious maternal moment. She's the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity (Seal Press, 2012), which shares several generations of motherhood's indignities, along with other heartwarming, hilarious, riveting stories…plus, recipes. Follow her on Twitter @candacewalsh; keep up with her on Facebook at Facebook.com/WriterCandaceWalsh

Fellatio in Aisle Three

by Candace Walsh 

Becoming a mother is both hard and delightful in all of the expected ways. I expected to sleep less, for my body to change, and when I was pregnant, I even had the distinct feeling that my second baby would hate the 20-minute drive back and forth to town. He did, screaming bloody murder for months, until we stumbled upon the solution of singing "The Wheels on the Bus" to him, with infinite variations (a certain kind of torture). Delight was found in waking to see my baby daughter's eyes trained on mine, as she grinned adoringly, or the sensation of my son playing with my hair as gently as if it were a strand of cotton candy he didn't want to break. 

One unexpectedly hard thing was noticing how the entire population (except for most other moms) stopped seeing me as an individual, a vector in space. I became a kind of coiled rug, the kind that's oval and spirals inward and outward. When that rug is in a room, it makes the room seem cozier, more homey and comforting--or maybe it just seems dowdy and passé. People saw me--or rather, the silhouette of a woman with a child, and their thoughts turned to their associations of all mothers, their eyes got soft and unfocused, or hard and snide, depending on their issues. 

It wasn't just people who didn't know the old me. I was at a wedding when my daughter was six months old, a cute dumpling in a lavender dress. I was around all of these people I used to party with in New York City, and one guy was talking about some edgy sexual practice, trying to turn on a girl much younger than him. I said something offhand and irreverent, and he looked at me balefully. "Okay, mom," he sneered, as if I had as much to contribute to a conversation about sex as a Mary Kay lady would to a room of neurosurgeons. 

How did he think I got pregnant? 

As my children grew older and more independent, I notice that I was rebirthed in others' eyes as an individual. I also spent more time with other parents, who didn't cleave the world so neatly into parents/people worth paying attention to. The feeling of being dismissed and unseen faded away. 

Until I was waiting in line for the restroom at Trader Joe's. On the wall: a bulletin board with photographs of happy customers. One: a vaguely familiar mother with a baby in a sling, wearing an ugly calico nursing shirt. The baby was pulling her hair. Her toddler was doing her best to fall out of the wagon, as she reached for a glass jar. The woman looked run-down and frumpy, but she was smiling gamely for the camera. 

Oh. My. God. 

That woman was me. 

The memories came flooding back--I'd made sure to come to Trader Joe's on its opening day (despite what I'm about to tell you, I love that place). Without dolling myself up, I finger-combed my short sensible hair, I piled the kids into the car (my son screamed, we sang "The Wheels on the Bus"), pried, plopped my daughter in the shopping cart seat, put on the sling, slid my son into it, grabbed my big, lumpy mom purse, and entered the store, hoping not to run into anyone. As we walked down aisle three, some happy staffer in a Hawaiian shirt told me to smile, because he was taking pictures on their opening day. He caught me mid-pose, my mouth kind of open as it smiled, half a "you've got to be kidding me" grimace. 

And now I stood looking at the photo. No one would think we were the same person. My hair was long again, my figure was trim, and my kids were tall and lanky, bounding around the store. There was the ghost of motherhood past, staring back at me with bleary eyes. And then I saw something else. To the right of my face, someone had drawn graffiti on the photo: a big cartoon penis, complete with hairy scrotum, swooping toward my open mouth. 

For years, my maternal likeness had been hanging there, visible for all to see, with a crude sketch of a big dong next to my mouth. Not one customer took it down. Not one team member thought to remove the impugned mother of two from the bulletin board. It reminded me of how vulnerable young motherhood is, how it oddly makes you public property, visible, a tableau to judge, a person to advise or criticize, well-meaningly or not. It reminded me of how my formerly predictable life became startlingly unpredictable: my children had minds and bodies of their own, screaming, laughing, sleeping, waking, pooping, regardless of when it was convenient for me. And it reminded me of how submerged I used to feel, as lumpy as my mom purse, breasts swollen with milk, baby weight riding along on my back, my thighs. 

It was so shocking that I continued on into the bathroom. My first impulse was to leave the image there on the bulletin board for another five years. I didn't want to claim it, emblazoned with evidence of the lack of respect--beyond lip service, pardon the pun--motherhood is afforded. And then I began to laugh. Vulgar or not, the image was both funny and true. Despite our best intentions and expectations, hopes, dreams, and efforts, between the repetitive drudgeries and society's condescensions, motherhood can really suck. 

On the way out, I took the photo down, not sure what I would do with it. But I ended up saving it, along with photos and other mementos (lock of hair, hospital bracelet, first crayoned portraits), a time capsule with items representing the full spectrum of my experience. Along with the sweetness of early motherhood--the kissing of a belly peeking out from a duckie undershirt, the shampoo horns I formed as my son sat in the sink with room to spare, the glee my daughter felt throwing her spoon from the high chair for the umpteenth time--there were the countless bendings down to get it, the dashes of bitter.

Since this story took place in Trader Joe's, I feel led to include a related recipe. All of the ingredients come from TJ's. The pie is a family favorite. It's low in sugar and only has one crust, and it's so darn easy! 

Shameless Short Cut Pie

1 frozen pie crust
1 jar chunky applesauce
1 bag frozen mixed berries
1 box light vanilla almond granola

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place pie crust in pie plate. 
In a bowl, mix together applesauce and unthawed berries. 
Transfer mixture to pie plate. 
Pour granola over the top until it completely covers the fruit. Pat down a tad.
Bake until done, about 45 minutes. 

Candace Walsh is managing editor of New Mexico magazine & the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity. She edited Seal Press anthologies Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women, and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On. Her writing has also appeared in Newsday, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Mademoiselle, & Huffington Post. 


The Napkin Dad on January 7, 2013 at 8:49 AM said...

Pretty amazing the management didn't take the photo down! But it is a funny story, I am glad you could laugh at it. I especially like that you took it and kept it. It will be as funny and smile-inducing memory as any of the other things you keep!

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