Babies and Bookstores and Posters, Oh My!

“Oh,” Britt says with a knowing smile on her face, “this is your first experience in public with twins, isn’t it?”

She says it as a warning but already I am ill prepared. We have taken a spur of the moment trip to BigCity, NC, carpooling from SmallTown, with all three kids in tow. The mission? Hang posters for the upcoming Carolina Mountains Literary Festival and make a pit stop at Amazing Savings for discount groceries.

It is two and a half blocks to the bookstore from where we park the Honda minivan (Note to self: multiple children requires a larger vehicle with car seats the size of luggage and arm strength surpassing the Incredible Hulk’s). Britt steers the double-stroller with a charismatic bounce in her step. By all accounts she is the tan, cute, young mother in a tight tank top and almost-mini skirt. I point out that we’re both wearing trendy red shoes with white ankle socks but otherwise, with the stroller between us and my pigtail braids and bandana, we represent fully opposite sides of the spectrum.

We make it to the bookstore safely, but not without stopping traffic twice and being sidelined by six, SIX!, total strangers who drool various versions of ooh-and-ahh-and-are-they-identical-or-paternal-oh-how-adorable’s at the twin boys. Britt still blushes slightly when strangers holler across city blocks about how beautiful her babies are, so as her friend I know that even flattering attention is sometimes awkward – but she handles it like the stroller, with some genetic, swift, maternal maturity that I am in awe of.

“Oh!” One woman gasps in adoration, “I had twin girls. They’re twenty-five now!” She is so loud that half the block turns our direction.

“So you survived!?” Britt shouts in response, barreling through the crowd at the crosswalk and forging forward toward our next stop. Completely useless and overwhelmed by more people than I’ve seen in two weeks, I follow – the diligent, oddly young looking friend that seems to know the kids but doesn’t fit the mold.

At least, I don’t fit the mold until we are in the bookstore and little Maxwell joyfully shouts: “Katey you are!” Then repeats my name as a question: “Katey? Katey? Katey?”

I smile.

Max smiles.

The entire bookstore is smiling, including the cute new-age-beatnick poet who works behind the counter and has a body as thin as paper but a heart as deep as the ocean (at least according to his chapbooks I’ve read). We recognize each other from a poetry reading a while back and I wonder what he thinks, seeing me hold a bubbly, blue-eyed baby boy as if I know what I am doing.

“You know what we look like, right?” Britt says. “It occurs to me that we’re in BigCity, NC…”

Her tone is insinuating something and it takes me a moment, then, “’Ten Thousand Lesbians Can’t Be Wrong!’” I say, quoting the unofficial BigCity slogan. (Here, there are more lesbians per capita than any other city in the country.)

“Yeah, and if we had test tube babies it’d be more likely that we had twins anyway, see?”

I link arms with her and we walk down the street one hand each on the double-stroller, pretending, two boys, two girls, too cute.

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