Gene and I were all excited about a new mall that had just opened. This was way back in the days when malls were still places to get excited about. Places where a young couple like us wanted to go on a Saturday night, where we could be dazzled by plenty of shiny objects, by the new design and décor, wander into all kinds of interesting and enticing stores, get a bite, and just enjoy the scene and being a part of it. Cheap date.
Tyson’s Corner in Northern Virginia was the mall calling us, and off we went. No money, lots of browsing to do.
“Let’s go in there,” I said, pointing to the toy store.
“Why not?” Gene snickered.
We had already played in fun stores like Spencer Gifts and Brookstones and were having such a good time, two over-grown kids, well, of course, we went to go play in the toy store.
Gene’s face lit up, and before I knew it, he was spinning the circular rack loaded with puppets. All kinds of crazy puppets.
“Grrrrr,” he growled, shoving a furry shark in my face. Then it was a turtle kissing my cheek. I found several puppets as well to harass him, and there we were, nearly 18 and 20, bent over double, laughing. Sheer silliness. Pure joy. Crystal clear revelation.
I knew we were going to get married someday. Going to become parents someday. And we were going to play with our children. But this was the moment when I knew I wanted to be a mother.
One August morning thirteen years later, I slipped a furry goat puppet on my hand. It was gray with white felt horns, big, goofy eyes, and a huge red mouth that I could open and close with my thumb. The puppet was a gift from my best friend for my second baby, Jane.
Jessica, my first child, was almost four and was very engrossed in Sesame Street. The baby, seven weeks old, was wide awake, sitting in her infant seat across the room. The puppet seemed to call. I slid my hand inside and became a bleating goat entertaining little Janey. Her dark brown eyes opened in amazement. She was locked on, very curious.
“Ba-a-a, ba-a-a-a,” the goat said, gently moving in closer and closer to her face. With every “ba-a-a,” the big red mouth opened wide and snapped shut. Janey was more and more excited, cooing at the puppet’s mouth.
The goat kept going, happy to see things escalate. Dancing around now, the big red mouth open, the goat and I heard Janey laugh out loud. Seven weeks old and she recognized the clown in that goat puppet. That laugh made my whole day. Made me believe I was a mother who could play. Mother’s Day came in August that year.