I knew we were back when we went to Target. We went through this new, complicated, and lengthy process of loosening and unbuckling various straps and buckles called exiting the car. As we were herding the children against the wheel hubs and shouting frantic instructions about parking lots (we’d forgotten to teach them that one), I looked up and my eye landed on a monstrous shopping trolley, roughly the size of our apartment in Oxford, with red plastic seating for not one, not two, but three small children. We secured this miraculous vehicle and, shortly thereafter, were powering down those spacious aisles with all our descendants and my enormous bag aboard and plenty of room for any number of things we didn’t come for. Faced with the tempting fruit of the labors of what must be the best team of market researchers in the country, the two things we came for mysteriously became five, then seven. It became imperative to exit immediately.
As we queued up a huge woman in a flowered dress was unloading things onto the checkout ahead of us. She called to us in a booming voice that carried halfway to the back walls of wonderland.
“Hey, you go ahead, I’m just standing here for my friend.”
Since her friend’s things were stacked to eye level all along the conveyor belt, I indicated that we would join another line. She raised her voice.
“No, c’mon, go ahead, just shove that stuff over. She went to the bathroom, I don’t know WHY she’s in there so long.”
So we awkwardly handed our things to the cashier over the pile of her friend’s purchases.
While the cashier was checking out the things, the woman kept up a noisy monologue.
“Oh, kids, cute kids. Those kids are great. What blue eyes. You have blue eyes, kids. They get that from you” (nodding knowingly). At this point I began to think longingly of British reserve.
“Let me see, you have two girls. Girl, girl, is that little one a boy? Yes? A boy. So you have girl, girl, boy, and what will the next one be, I wonder?”
She said this loudly and speculatively. I thought she was assuming a bit much but it didn’t seem polite to say so. Before I could think of what to respond, she continued. “I mean, seriously, are you going to find out or no?” And she gestured at my belly.
There were at least a dozen people watching, maybe more. “I’m not expecting,” I said.
“What did you say, Hon, I didn’t hear you?”
“I’M NOT EXPECTING.”
After we were in the car, I looked over at Alex.
“God save the Queen,” I said.