About seven years ago, when my son was two, he was learning to count. Like most kids that age, he counted everything in sight. Oranges in the fruit basket on the kitchen table, blocks in the middle of the floor, dancing animals in the pages of books…you get the idea.
Since I’m a teacher and it was close to the end of summer, we set out on a trip to the store for school supplies one day in late August. Things went smoothly until we arrived in the checkout line and encountered the cashier. A very well endowed cashier. A very well endowed cashier who was, and I’m not even kidding, wearing a necklace that boldly displayed the words Everything’s Bigger in Texas!
If I’m being honest, the only time I’d ever seen a woman more…blessed was when I was about nine and I accidentally glanced at a calendar (I can only assume it was supposed to be hidden) hanging not so discretely behind the counter at a gas station; it’s an image that haunts me to this very day. And speaking of being scarred for life, I’ll never forget how the bottom of the cashier’s necklace fell, not so daintily, between her two…well, you know. Underneath her blue uniform vest, she was wearing a tight white V-neck t-shirt that covered a hot pink bra outlined in black leather the likes of which I’d never seen. It was an outfit that would have fit right in on the album cover of an 80s rock band.
Except for the fact that this woman was easily in her late sixties.
I’ll give you a minute.
Despite the blood gushing down the back of my throat because I was biting the inside of my cheeks to keep from roaring at the ridiculousness of the situation, I politely and casually piled my items on the conveyer belt of the checkout. Halfway through my attempt to empty my cart, to my surprise, I noticed that my son was doing some checking out of his own. I desperately hoped it was the necklace hanging from the woman’s neck that had him so enthralled. Either way, I was too busy to worry about it as there was a long line forming behind me.
Before I knew it, I’d placed the last of my purchases on the counter and was ready to cash out. The process went smoothly, but my concern deepened as I noticed my son’s continued interest in this woman’s bosom. The next thing I knew, eyebrows raised in curiosity, he held up a pudgy finger, pointed right at her (eyes still glued to her chest) and asked, “Wus dat?” Frantic to get his hand out of the air so that nobody, especially our cover girl, would notice what he was pointing at, I grabbed his little arm, kissed him, and told him he was silly.
I blame myself for what happened next.
Apparently feeling helpless after two more attempts at asking, “Wus dat?” and not receiving an answer, my precious son leaned forward, poked that same pudgy finger into each of the woman’s ample breasts, and proudly exclaimed, “One! Two!”
I honestly don’t remember much about what happened after that, but I do recall the gentleman standing behind us keeling over and wheezing for what seemed like a full sixty seconds before he was able to catch his breath. His bellowing laughter echoed from the walls of that super mart, only adding to my mortification. He laughed so uncontrollably that he ended up excusing himself and standing in another line where his laughter continued until we left the store. The young couple that was standing behind him took pity on me and smiled a bit before the young man whispered, “He only said what we were all thinking.”
The cashier herself never blinked an eye. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that she’d ever even been aware of what happened. All these years I’ve secretly wondered if it was really possible that she never felt the pokes…and believe me, there’s a question I never thought I’d find myself pondering. I mean, was it really possible that having her breasts counted in public was a daily occurrence, and therefore, when my son used them as an abacus it went unnoticed?
Either way, I remember not being able to decide if I should apologize to her or ignore what had happened as she seemed to be doing. After all, the question What should you do when your child counts the breasts on a large chested woman in public? wasn’t one that was answered in any of the books I’d read while preparing for motherhood. In the end, not wanting to make the matter any worse, I scurried away like a frightened rabbit as my son smiled and waved happily at the nice young couple behind us.
Over the years, though sometimes it’s been a bit of a trial, I’ve avoided going back to that particular cashier’s line during my return trips to her store. Even if it would have taken me less time to go to the 20 Items or Less aisle, I’ve waited a good 15 minutes behind someone with 58,876 items and 8 screaming kids to buy my 2 or 3 items in order to avoid facing her.
To be clear, it’s not that I’m embarrassed about what my son did, though it’s certainly not one of my proudest moments as a parent. It’s the fact that I didn’t apologize to her. I should have. I realize now that the fact that she didn’t acknowledge the incident probably had something to do with self preservation and that makes me feel awful. Also, in her defense, her fashion choices have become much more subdued over the years and even though it doesn’t show up very often, I’ve even seen her wearing the necklace a few times and it always makes me smile.
To make a long story even longer…yesterday afternoon I had a few errands to run and I was in a huge rush. Going through her line was going to save me a lot of time. I mean, for crying out loud, it had been almost seven years. It couldn’t possibly be an experience that she remembered, right?
With my head held high, I made my way to her line with my contact solution and York’s Peppermint Patty. I looked her in the eye, smiled, and thanked her after she asked me if I wanted the chocolate left out. After taking my bag, I turned and began walking away with victory bells ringing in my head.
And that’s when I heard her ask, “That boy of yours still countin’ to beat the band?”
Horror of all horrors.
I’m 100% sure that the blush that swept across my face left me looking like one gigantic, freckled, overripe raspberry. For a moment I was speechless, but then I managed to respond, “Yikes, you remember that do you?”
She smiled, chuckled, and said, “Oh yes, it’s one of my favorite stories. My grandchildren think it’s a riot!” And then, because she had more people to attend to, she grinned and said, “Don’t be a stranger.”
I’m not proud of it, but my first instinct was to say, “Oh, you can count on it,” but realizing it was probably too soon, and then remembering that I’m a 42 year old woman who should occasionally act my age not my shoe size when I’m in public, I simply returned her grin and waved my goodbye.
After all, some things are just better left
unsaid uncounted. Well, both really.