OPINION: Charming Charlie, A Common Car-Napping Criminal with Chutzpah

I do a lot of stupid things … I was going to say lately but in general is probably a better qualifier. I guess you might say I’m really skilled at it, like the Cat in the Hat is skilled at making big messes and leaving Sally and her nameless brother to clean them up.

Guilty as charged, I am a stupid thing doer, a Suessian character like no other, making a series of well-meaning and typically ill-timed decisions, longing for some unattainable mirage far, far away from the sandy, sweaty, desperate-for-Starbucks state of mind I was in again on this particular day.

Just to be clear, I meant to get a beach cart or something with wheels or something other than Junior’s umbrella stroller that was now buckling under the weight of not only Junior but the miscellaneous must-haves my younger daughter and her friend had loaded my van up with … buckets, shovels, rocks. It was still largely unclear as to whether we were swimming at Merwin Meadows or mining a quarry.

“Can you girls just…”

But they were gone, racing ahead like two teenagers at the mall, wise beyond their years and far beyond the sound of my somewhat desperate plea for help with that stroller, its contents and enough Starbucks to fuel the entire Town of Wilton and possibly greater Fairfield County.

Do you ever notice when you’re struggling with something, like really actively struggling, like in a very, ‘you can’t miss it, boy this woman’s a hot July mess’ kinda way, that people will actually just stop and stare at you?

It happens. A lot. Stalled stroller, putting out the flares, calling Triple A, people. Nothing. Abandon cheap knock off, should have splurged on the City Mini and now chasing Junior across the parking lot, I see we’ve hit another roadblock. Toy cars. They’re everywhere. We’re talking fire engines, paramedic trucks, police cruisers and a Lilliputian … Lexus?? Truly, I’m humbled, almost dropping the vitally important Starbucks sustenance in the process.

“Hold on there, buddy.” But it’s too late and just as I’m about to grab his hand, he makes his own grab for the FAO Schwartz of EMS vans like it’s the last matchbox car on the planet and heads quickly for the hills (i.e that big Merwin sand pile) with all the chutzpah and charm of a common criminal (think Aladdin).

I’ve learned to let a lot go, including the housekeeping, my body, and my toddler’s narrow fixation with all things transportation and sixth sense for when trucks are coming. I swear, he’s like the Haley Joel Osment of vehicles. But now, someone was watching me, judging me (if only silently), evaluating my every response to this oh-so-common mommying conundrum, questioning my parenting (or lack thereof) and oh-so-quick to size me up. Enter: The Other Mother.

What was I doing? What was my son doing and what exactly was I going to do about it? Implying, clearly I should do something about it, implying, to be crystal clear, I should (at least for starters), let go of the oh-so-far-fetched-fantasy that I was actually going to be able to drink my iced (melted quickly) oat milk latte or (foolishly) sit with a book. A book? Seriously? What was I thinking? Maybe I could take some award winning photos to post while I was at it so you didn’t know the real story of my son stealing some other little boy’s car and refusing to return it because, um, check your notifications, he’s not even two and really great at throwing such a series of successive and sigh-worthy tantrums, complete with biting and back arching, I’m still surprised no one alerted the authorities and escorted us out of there.

I have to confess, I wanted to give the car back, really I did, but not as badly as I wanted to take that other mom’s (insert expensive designer name) sunglasses, her latte with the ice still intact and City Mini (yes, of course she had one) and run away over the sand pie with it, yelling, “Olly, olly oxen free!” because in the name of oat milk lattes, “it’s a toy car and he’s two and aren’t we gals who pushed things the size of watermelons out of our vaginas supposed to stick together?”

I ask it later, back at the Ranch, aka the sprawling estate of Brinna and Roy. She pours me another glass of Riesling, Rose, rubbing alcohol, I’d drink anything to wash down the taste of sand and sweat and “so what…so what if he stole the truck?”

Brinna answers, sipping her (what I see now on the label) Chardonnay: “Does everyone have to like you? Do you really care?”

Do we have a few hours and few more bottles of the good stuff and maybe Brinna’s concierge counselor on tap because, really, I’m one misadventure at Merwin away from feeling like a fantastic fraud, a cheap knock off of the real (remember her sunglasses and Citi Mini?) deal …

“Crap!” I bolt upright. “I left the stroller.”

“What?”

“The stroller. I just left it … sitting there in the middle of the Merwin parking lot, with the diaper bag and the buckets and the rocks …”

“Rocks?” Brinna tries to keep up. “What were you doing with … why would you have rocks?”

“Oh, the kids,” I say, waving my hand dismissively. Then, gasping: “I forgot the…”

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice. 

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