Editor’s Note: Remember the good old days of blogging? We do. Quite a few writers and editors who have passed through Tweetspeak’s doors (or are still here) first began as personal bloggers. But these days writers do more than write. In 2014, Callie Feyen read her essay Superbuns! for Listen to Your Mother, a series of life-reading performances by and about mothers produced by Ann Imig, humorist, speaker, and author. Feyen presented at the 2014 Washington, D.C. show. This edition of Life Notes brings that material to light. Because, after all, each of us comes from the stories that made us. And these stories often shine in the retelling.
A Listen to Your Mother production, by Callie Feyen, July 9, 2014
You need to know a word for this story, and the word is superbuns. It’s what my five-year-old daughter calls bras. I don’t know how it came about, but I have yet to correct her. It’s on my to-do list, just after “teach Hadley how to tie her shoes.”
So superbuns equals bras. Now I can tell you the story.
A few weeks after Christmas, my husband, Jesse, and our five- and three-year-old daughters, Hadley and Harper, go to the mall because we have some gift cards that are burning holes in our pockets. I have one from Victoria’s Secret, which is convenient because there is an underthing I am in need of, and Victoria’s Secret is clearly the place to go to get underthings. Apparently, everyone else knows this too because as we make our way to the store’s subtle flaming pink threshold, there are crowds of gals pouring over boxes of underthings. What I didn’t know at the time was that we were walking into Victoria Secret’s Semi-Annual-Get-All-The-Underwear-You-Might-Ever-Need-Sale.
Don’t take your kids to Victoria’s Secret is what you’re thinking. And I totally agree with you.
Except, I’m more of a visual person, and this thought doesn’t occur to me until I’m looking at the glitter and at the word pink on the butt of several pairs of underpants. Hadley’s reading. Her favorite color is pink. I’m thinking that if she comes in this store with me, it is quite possible that her next arts and crafts project will have something to do with fabric markers and a pair of underpants. I tell Jesse I need to go in by myself, and we part — he to take the kids to the park part of the mall, and I to enter the world of Victoria’s secrets.
I’m looking for something functional. Nothing that is going to make it look like I have a butt under my chin. Perhaps that is the secret — functional in this store is hard to find. There’s lots of lace and pink and the word pink. There’s glitter and gems and bold colors, but finding something for a mother with young children who does a few things more than just sit there is not easy.
After circling the store a few times, I find something. It’s in the corner, in the back of the store. The heading T-shirt highlights the item’s features, and I know I’ve found what I’m looking for. I reach up to take the peachy-beige item off the hanger and make my way to the cashier.
Because this is the Semi-Annual-Get-All-The-Underwear-You-Might-Ever-Need Sale, there are 4,567 people in front of me. Women of all ages, really. High school girls who have yoga pants slung over their shoulders so they can text while they wait to pay.
Another lady — a bride, I think — holds a few things and looks at the shiny ring on her left hand. Another holds a tiny baby, bobbing back and forth while she waits in line. She’s talking to a younger woman next to her who I assume is her daughter. The new mom’s hair is in a ponytail, and she looks at the baby, then at the line, then to her mom. The mom follows her daughter’s gaze, kisses her grandbaby, reaches to her daughter, then pats her shoulder and says something. What she says looks soothing.
The tricky thing about shopping is the waiting in line. There’s a lot of time to look at all the sparkle. There’s time to think about what a body mist called Wink Wink smells like, which is what I’m doing when I see the grandma-mother-grandbaby combo. I look at the glittery bottle in my one hand and my functional peachy beige thing in the other. I miss my mom. If she were here, she’d nudge me in the side and say, “Get the peachy beige one and let me get you that cute polka dot one. You know, for fun. And let’s get some yoga pants and sweatshirts too. They’re on sale.” She’d know how to navigate this place.
Afterwards, we’d get coffee and a donut, and I’d think Victoria’s Secret isn’t so scary because my mom makes everything fun and funny and even the weirdest situations are filled with potential.
I’m thinking about this, turning over a bottle of self-tanner promising a beach-looking body, when I hear Hadley.
“OOOOOOO!!! Look at all this pink stuff! Oh, Daddy, look how BEE-utiful these underpants are! Do they have my size? Do they have 5T?”
When she finds me, she is covered in chocolate, and Jesse says, “Sorry, they were getting antsy. So, I bought them a snack.”
And chocolate is the way to get them un-antsy.
I can tell from Hadley’s face that she is not in control of herself. This is a scary place for Hadley to be. She acts fast. So fast nobody can prevent what is about to happen. But I try, in vain, to hold my T-shirt-appropriate underthing close to me. It is too late. She has spotted it and is pouncing before I can do anything. She grabs it out of my hands, holds it above her head and yells, “SUPERRRRRR BUNNNNNNS!!!!!”
This is Jesse’s cue to take the girls out of the store. And he does, while I inch closer to the cashier, eyes on my shoes, though I can hear women wondering what superbuns are. It’s possible they want to know where they can find some.
“Are you going to need a bag for that?” the cashier asks me at the counter.
I forgot about the tax for bags Montgomery County charges if you need one from the store. I didn’t take any of my own bags with me. What am I supposed to do? Carry what I purchased for all to see in the mall? Maybe put it on over my shirt? Or hang it from my jeans pocket?
“Yes please, I’ll need a bag,” I tell her.
The cashier wraps my purchase in tissue paper with pink and gold stripes on it, then neatly places it into a shiny pink bag and hands it to me.
“I’m not showing my superbuns to all of Westfield Mall, thank you very much,” I think, as I walk out of the store, looking for my family. Besides, I kind of like this shade of pink.
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