Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The faces don't change

I love jo(e)'s blog dearly. Like a lot of people, I think, sometimes I envy the continuity in her life: she lives in the same town she grew up in, right near her parents, who grew up there too. She runs into friends in the supermarket who she knew in elementary school. I don't mean to romanticize too much--I know small towns aren't necessarily ideal for everyone (and not really for me)--but there's a depth of community there that you can't just parachute into.

I tend to forget that there's community in our lives here, too, even if we live more typical peripatetic North American existences. Three incidents today--two of them really minor, almost too trivial to blog about--reminded me of that:

MG's been obsessed with these Littlest PetShop toys lately. The best way I can describe them is that they're like Bratz dolls, only they're cheap little plastic animals with bobbing heads. I can just picture the glee of the Hasbro employee who came up with this stroke of marketing genius, figuring that kids will glom onto the cuteness, the weird edgy hipness of the oversized heads and long eyelashes, and parents will thank the toy-manufacturing gods that they don't have to wrestle with the political and ethical implications of yet another creepily oversexualized girl doll.

Plus, there are dozens of different animals, and you can collect them seemingly endlessly; MG claims to know a girl who has 100. Predictably, she has taken this as a challenge and has made it her new life's goal to dedicate her allowance and chore money towards obtaining as many PetShops as possible. Since apparently every other girl in her school has the exact same goal, our local Fred Meyer's is constantly out of them.

The other day she and Renaissance Woman were in another part of town-- a northern suburb, actually--and stopped in the Fred Meyer's there for a couple of things. To MG's delight, their toy department was discovered to have an entirely different selection of PetShops, including a seahorse, which she'd never seen before.

Since that day, her mind has never been far from that seahorse. This morning (yet another snow day! our sixth!) she bounded out of bed and immediately began offering to do extra chores for money. We have a relatively elaborate system for this which I won't go into now, but suffice it to say that after she'd cleared the breakfast dishes, wiped down the table, and helped wash the bathroom sink and floor, she'd racked up enough cumulative jobs to earn a dollar, which put her over the threshhold for the cost of the PetShop plus tax.

Then we had to call Fred Meyer's right away and ask them to hold the toy. MG was actually willing to do this herself, but was first stymied by the phone tree system and then suffered an attack of shyness upon finally encountering an actual human voice, and after stammering out a fair bit of information about herself and her parents and absolutely nothing about what she wanted, handed the phone over, leaving me to try to give the bemused young woman on the other end some sense of the importance and location of this particular seahorse.

"They're called Littlest PetShops," I explained. "All the kids at Smartypants Yuppie School are crazy about them."

"Smartypants Yuppie!" she shrieked. "Ommigod, I wentto that school! Then we moved up here when I was eleven!" She couldn't get over it. She put a fair bit of effort into finding the seahorse (Eventually Renaissance Woman got on the phone to describe it) and assured us that she'd put it on hold for MG until next Friday, when she and RW will be in the neighborhood again. She even wrote MG's name right on the packaging, so it wouldn't get lost. Previous Fred Meyer's employees have lectured me rather sternly in the past that they absolutely can't hold anything for more than 24 hours, so I can only assume that the old school ties accounted for this special favor.

By then the snow had melted enough that it was safe to go out, so we headed to the nearby Fred Meyer's (the one that's perennially out of PetShops) so I could choose some new glasses.

This is always a nightmare for me, since I'm so nearsighted that I have to wear glasses practically every waking moment, and glasses are so prominent on the face that it's almost like buying a body part: I know my glasses form a big part of the first impression anyone will have of me, so buying a new pair is a huge amount of pressure. Plus, since I'm so nearsighted and don't wear contacts, I can't actually see myself or the frames very well when I'm trying them on. The whole process is a huge ordeal, during which I'm constantly convinced that I'll make the wrong choice and look like a big cross-eyed puffy-cheeked dork for the next two years.

So I always beg Renaissance Woman (and, lately, Mermaid Girl) to come help me choose the frames. RW has a better sense of my face than I do, and is good at steering me away from the big clunky rectangular frames that look so cool and hip on other people and yet always make me look like my eyes are too close together.

But I was taking so long to choose that eventually MG got restless, and they went off grocery shopping, leaving me and my 7 or 8 finalist frames in the hands of the optical shop manager. I sat down across the table from her and laid out my dilemma: I'll be interviewing for jobs in the next year, looking for work as a children's and/or teen and/or reference librarian. I want to seem cool, but not like I'm trying too hard. Competent, but not stodgy. Warm, but not boring. And I don't want anything that makes my cheeks look too fat.

She gave me a hard look. "You're a librarian? I know you from somewhere. I used to work for Humungoid Book Fairs."

"Yes, I'm..." but before I could go any further, she had it: where I worked and what kind of school. She remembered helping me set up a book fair several years ago, and as soon as she said it I remembered her, too: "Oh, you were the one who wasn't flaky! You were good! I used your design the next year, too."

Between frame tryouts we chatted about Humungoid and about my school, and she even took out some scratch paper and sketched out some suggestions for arranging the cases the book fair we'll have this spring. She was patient with my indecisiveness, and ruled out several frames right away. "I can see what'll work for you," she said. "I've been doing this for years; much longer than I did book fairs. Styles come and go, you know, but people's faces don't really change."

So there is a web of community for us here: friends and co-workers, sure, but also people like these whose lives cross and crisscross with ours over the years in the most seemingly casual of ways. It's scary to think of leaving it, as we'll be doing this year. Why not bloom where we've planted ourselves?

On the other hand, we have roots all over the world, RW and I. It's how our families are, both of them, and how we've lived our lives. Just recently I got news that someone who is related to someone I knew a long time ago, on another continent, now lives in Vancouver and is looking for contact with people who knew her relative, who died fifteen years ago and who I think she only met when she was a little girl.

For some reason, this news that this person I've never met, and, who knows, may never meet, lives in the city we're moving to makes me so happy.

3 Comments:

Blogger nyjlm said...

Like you, I grew up in the NY metro area. Now I live in a very rural part of Florida. I get a kick out of driving around town and having the UPS or FedEx guys who deliver to my job wave at my car as we pass each other on the road!

It is a very different way of life to get used to, but it is wonderful in its own way.

10:01 AM  
Blogger liz said...

I grew up in NYC and when I go back to visit, like this past weekend, I'm constantly running into school friends. Any place you live is a small town if you know enough people. I'm glad that the place you're moving to has already become a small town for you.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous ppb said...

I love that she got on the phone! And I love that the clerk at the store held a seahorse for her!

2:06 PM  

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