Do you need any help finding anything?
Simple query. Standard clerk operation. Yet her question left me speechless. I stared blindly at the shelves in front of me for a moment before I answered.
A staccato collection of tongue-in-cheek conversation ran through my mind in that brief silence, but I finally said, no, I didn’t need help.
For I realized that anything more than that would be too much information for this clerk stocking some manner of geriatric product next to the baby care section.
She didn’t need to know that my prolonged, slack-jawed stare at the array of diapers on display (which admittedly wasn’t even that extensive) wasn’t due to a lack of knowledge on my part. It was the realization that all that inane diaper information I’d chucked to the back of my brain, thinking I’d never again need to know how many pounds a size 3 diaper fit, would now need to be retrieved; that Pampers smell like poo before the kid even fills them; that Huggies now come in swaddlers and movers and shakers and trapeze artists. I peered at the tiny kg/lbs ranges under the big numeral sizes like an old woman who’d forgotten her glasses.
I did remember that the mommy-to-be for whom I was buying the diapers wouldn’t need newborn size since the hospital would send her home with a boatload.
There are some parts of motherhood that are like the proverbial riding of the bike.
However, there are some things not even a conscientious, helpful clerk can help an expectant mother find in the baby care aisle. A cure for her feeling that she was done with this a long time ago. A settling of the ambivalence toward starting the whole process all over again. A certainty instead of the disbelief at the surrealism of it all.
All these certainly aren’t on the shelf. They’re not even in the back room. Only the mother herself is the purveyor of these goods – and they’re not one size fits all.