Opal and I went to the mall a few weeks ago. It was a particularly cold and grey week, like sitting on metal in shorts, and I was not in the mood to take my sacred daily walk in such conditions. So I put the dog in day care for the afternoon and piled Doodlebug into the car to hit the mall scene. I wore tennies. I had something to return. I was armed with an afternoon snack (for myself--luckily Opal's afternoon snack still comes straight from the boob). I brought the stroller, purposefully timing the adventure to correspond with naptime in the hopes that Opal would sleep while I paced the isles at a decent cardio clip.
A visit to the mall is unfailingly better in theory. My memory comes straight from adolescence and no other, more accurate, memory of going to the mall as an adult comes to mind. To me, the mall depicts a time when I could spend an entire afternoon filling the space with no consideration of productivity, without getting either bored or irritable, executing the craft of aimless-wandering and time- squandering like a master. I have long since lost those skills. I no longer have the desire to try on dozens of clothing items that far exceed what I can pay and I am no longer able to feast on Cinnabon's, Steak Escape and soft pretzels the size of life preservers without getting a bellyache.
Suffice it to say no mall experience could ever match up to the memory of youth.
But even now, the level of amusement extracted from people watching, window shopping and feeling all the richer for having NOT spent the amount asked of me from any price tag is enough to sustain me for a few hours.
Opal, however, did not sleep as I kicked up the dirt with my nimble, rubber-soled feet and circled passed the Ghiradelli chocolate lady, the guy at the cell phone kiosk and the Mrs. Field's cookie baker at an impressive clip. I told the chair massage guy with each brisk passing, "Just waiting for her to fall asleep..."
But she never did. She protested. She whined. She squirmed. She was not, ladies and gentlemen, impressed by the mall and is way too young to have any nostalgic reasons to be.
After about an hour of this off-and-on fuss, I resigned myself to the fact that my little one was not likely to snooze as I had planned. So I decided to hit the restroom to pee and change her, then hopefully find a location to nurse her that was better than my car. Then we'd head on home.
Since I parked by Nordstrom's, that's where I asked to be pointed to a restroom, hoping for a stall that was big enough for the stroller as well as a changing table.
What I walked into so exceeded my expectations that I had no choice but to stop in the doorway, gaping in disbelief.
Listen closely. What unfolded before my eyes was not merely a restroom, it was a lounge that consisted of a handful of nooks boasting microfiber couches like mini living rooms. There were hallways that sprouted into bathroom stalls and entire changing areas. It was as if I'd stumbled into a breastfeeding Zion.
"Um, um, hello" I greeted the other mothers as clumsily as a high school geek that somehow made it to the cool after-prom. I squealed when I saw the separate sink alongside the changing table and yet another sink--stocked with soap and paper towels-- INSIDE the handicapped stall. There was a moment, a flicker, in which I couldn't think of a single good reason to ever return home again.
I must have looked a bit out of my league because as I exited the diaper-changing corridor, a gorgeous mama wearing skinny jeans and high heels--that didn't even quiver as she pushed her toddler in the stroller-- offered me her spot on an eggplant love seat in a corner with taupe walls and enormous framed still life paintings of fruit. The clock on the wall was bold-faced with type-writer font, something you'd find in a classroom. Norah Jones was playing.
I took a drink of water from my bottle, only then slowing enough to realize how thirsty I was. I situated Opal, who melted into a goo-pile of satisfaction on my lap as she gobbled, and thought of what a different world it would be if spots like this were not the exception. Little rest areas along the way that allow mamas to quench their own thirst as well as their baby's, offering pillows the size of dog beds to rest joints that ache from carrying, pushing and hoisting little bodies and playing smooth jazz that beckons for the accompaniment of capacious exhales.