She started it.
Of course, I’m over twelve, so there’s really no justification in that.
“Your setting a bad example for your daughter, you know.”
There were so many things wrong with that one sentence that I had a hard time computing.
1. I wasn’t smoking. Or really doing anything bad at all. I was merely loading the last of my groceries into the back of the car.
2. Sure, my kid has a pretty face, but he’s not a fat little girl, he’s a rugged little boy. Wearing NY Giants sweatpants and carrying a toy spider.
And the winner:
3. You do not, as a total stranger, have any right to tell me anything at all about my parenting. None. Game over.
For a moment I think I just stood there like a lobotomy patient. Finally I uttered, “Excuse me?”
She slapped her roll of reusable grocery bags against the side of my car.
Did she just hit my car?
“This. (It’s a Ford Explorer. And she hit it again!) You’re driving around in this gas guzzler, with no thought at all to your impact on the environment, or what you’re teaching your child. You don’t even use reusable shopping bags. Your daughter’s going to grow up taking this world for grantbplebzz buzzz mmmmnnnab bzzz.”
I’m not really sure what the rest her words were. . . there was a lot more, but anger kind of drowned her out until she was just kind of buzzing.
I actively thought about keeping my mouth shut and just getting in the car. I kept jabbing at the internal edit button, but there were still groceries and the kid to load into the car and I just couldn’t find it.
So instead I said this (I have better vocabulary when I’m pissed than at any other time in my life):
“Here’s the deal. I’d love to be able to have nothing better to think about than the environment, but I have a handicapped mother who can’t get into a cute little eco-car like yours. And when one has to consider both the need to stand upright inside the vehicle to get her in, and the capacity to store her wheel chair, it’s pretty much this, or nothing. And since I don’t have the 50 grand to shell out for a new hybrid SUV, you’ll just have to deal with me being an environmental menace. . .”
I could have stopped there, but I didn’t. In part, because the above has been highly edited. Not only do I have an exceptional vocabulary when I’m angry, I also punctuate liberally with the work ‘fuck’ and I could tell she was horrified for the tender little ears of my precious child.
“. . . and lest you think my poor son, suffers from verbal abuse, know that he understands that foul language is an arbitrary assignment that can get him in trouble in certain environments, so he has no interest in repeating them. I can say this all day long (here I descended into pure juvenile behavior) Fuck, fuckity fuck.”
Like he was cued, Quinn piped up. “Mama, you shouldn’t say ‘fuck.’ It might make that lady mad.”
“See? ” I helped Quinn into the car at this point and kept going.
“So don’t you judge me and my influence on my kid. You deal with what I deal with and see what you do.”
I opened my door and climbed in. “And my fucking reusable grocery bags were already in the car. But I bought extra stuff to put together a thank you basket for the nurses who take care of my Mom.”
In the car I was still so angry my hands were shaking as I plugged the key into the ignition. But she was still standing by more door, either stunned, or planning to continue, I don’t know which.
Quinn sat behind me, looking at me in the mirror.
“Why did you use the words that upset people, Mama?”
“Well, honey, I was mad, so I wanted to upset her.”
“Why was you mad?”
“Well, buddy. She said stuff that tried to make me feel like I’m a bad mama and that I don’t care about our world because of what I need to do to take care of Grammy.”
“You’re not a bad mama, Mama. You’re a nice mama.”
“Thank you, buddy. I love you, too.
And I’m so overwhelmed by this balancing act, that my son’s declaration made me cry half the way home.