Monday, March 26, 2012

Sometimes I Get a Changing Feeling

The fact that it was like 85 degrees in northeastern Massachusetts in March automatically made it an epic day. But, oh, that doesn't begin to describe HOW epic. 

I headed into Brookline in the morning for my semi-annual skin checkup. These appointments at the dermatologist's office always cause me a little anxiety because my mother died of skin cancer, and I am very fair. I spent my childhood all the way through my college summers in various shades of red (sunburn, that is) -- whether at a beach club in my hometown, a sleepaway camp in Maine, or a club I worked at as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. And my nose? It peeled constantly. I should have a completely bare bone for a proboscis right now.

Without going into detail about my condition, let's just say that I've had countless spots treated since I started getting checked the year after my mother passed on. They've been sprayed, sliced away, biopsied, or removed surgically in a hospital. The fact is: I simply cannot leave an appointment without something having been done to me. It's been this way for as long as I can remember.

So when I got out of there a few days ago after only a handful or so of sprayings, I was downright elated. It had been a full year since I had missed my previous appointment.

Sometimes I get a happy feeling. 

To celebrate, I drove over to Harvard Square and treated myself to my favorite dark chocolate drink at L.A. Burdick. Then I photographed it with my iPhone and posted it to my Facebook page. Okay, the chocolate servers helped me as I had never done that before. But I felt satisfied at the small achievement and confident I would be able to do it again without assistance.

Sometimes I get a proud feeling.

Back in the car, bopping out to Flo Rida's infectious "Good Feeling," I missed the exit for 128N that I have taken a billion times. Argh. Turned myself around and next missed the exit to my favorite store! How odd. What was wrong with me?

Sometimes I get an unbalanced feeling.

Having just received my dividend in the mail on purchases made the previous year, I was psyched to spend it on new clothes for the unseasonable heat. First I collected a number of shirts and shorts to try on. Then I made my way over to the cap display in the rear of the store. The need to protect my face from the harsh rays of the sun was foremost on my mind.

I was determined to find a cute cap for the beach and walking around town. I've never been a cap person, but I suspect that's going to change. While rummaging through the store's stock, I found a tan topper with an interesting detail: a double-strung brown leather cord holding a rectangular metal piece. I liked the looks of the cap -- simple with a twist -- and it would go with most anything because tan is versatile. So I tried it on and asked a salesman walking by what he thought. He gave it the thumbs up.

At that moment, a man appeared around the corner with a smelly, dirty dog in tow. I'd never seen anyone in this store with a service dog, so the encounter took me slightly aback. "Ask her what she thinks of the cap," the man said to me, gesturing toward his dog. A strange request, but I decided to play along. "What do you think of this cap?" I asked the golden retriever a bit foolishly. She approached me, nuzzled my leg and the edge of my shorts, then wagged her tail. "She likes it!" the man exclaimed delightedly. "I'm so glad you approve," I told the dog.

As I turned toward the display to look for caps I might have missed, the man walked passed me and rounded the corner. I thought he had moved along. Yet when I came around that side, I found him touching the clothes in my cart. He was lifting a pair of dark green shorts I had partially draped over my open purse, thus exposing its contents. I was stunned. Had I caught this man about to steal from me? If not that, he was at least handling the clothes I had just picked out and planned to try on. Either way, I didn't like it.

Sometimes I get an uncomfortable feeling.

"That's my stuff," I said in the nicest tone of voice I could muster under the circumstances. "Oh," he responded, not a bit surprised, embarrassed, or apologetic. Since no one else was near us in this far section of the store at the time, I found it hard to believe that he couldn't guess the cart was mine. "Where did you get it?" he asked me about my clothing collection. "Um, the women's department," I replied, matter of factly. I resisted the urge to use sarcasm as the situation already felt disturbing, and I did not care to anger the man. "I have six older sisters," he added by way of explaining his interest in this woman's clothing.

Then he walked off and -- as is usually my luck when I need a salesperson -- I couldn't find one. Some minutes later I spotted the employee who'd given me the thumbs up outside the fitting rooms. I relayed the incident to him, expressing my discomfort. He apologized, and later a second employee who had been informed by the first did as well. I thanked them both for their concern and assured them I'd return to shop there again.

Driving back to my town, I felt nearly violated. Ever since two thefts occurred on my property a couple of years ago, I am attuned to recognizing the feeling. Nevertheless, I tried to shake it off with compassion. That's because the salesmen told me that the man with the service dog comes into the store regularly and engages customers in conversation. They did not know of him ever touching other people's belongings, however. That appeared to be a first. Hearing this, my heart sunk as I imagined that this man, who perhaps suffers from mental illness, frequents the store for company and to stave off loneliness.

Sometimes I get a conflicted feeling.

I picked my sons up at school at the appointed time, and within an hour we were at the beach. At last, I thought, I could relax. The late afternoon was lovely by the ocean. The sun was hot, but my face was shielded by my new tan cap. Fantastic. Hours passed, and we ended up staying for dinner. Charlie had a fit in the sand near the roadway because the pizza arrived with no pepperoni on top. He hadn't made it clear he wanted pepperoni, so his tantrum was not justified. But it's not as if I had never seen this behavior before! I was just grateful the display was not directly in front of the large group of beachgoers from town whom I know.

So there I was innocently eating my pizza with artichokes (Chris's choice) when, speak of the devil, a voice cried out a short distance away: "Christopher is trapped in the sand!"

Sometimes I get a scared feeling.

I ran over to a large hole and found my older son and a second-grade friend buried to the top of their legs standing up. Chris couldn't move his lower limbs, and he wanted out of the hole. That was certain. Yet part of him clearly enjoyed the attention because he was laughing. A bunch of boys and girls standing around the hole were also laughing.

Only two people could dig the sand away from the boys' legs because the group had only two shovels -- the same two shovels used to create the hole. Christopher's friend was released first. I made one attempt to pull my son out, but I wasn't strong enough. He weighs eight-five pounds, and his legs were still pinned. Having hurt my back not much more than a year ago, I was worried about getting reinjured. So I approached the group of adults enjoying dinner and cocktails and zeroed in on the largest man. I recruited him to help free Christopher. And with one big heave-ho, the task was done.

Sometimes I get a relieved feeling.

Chris came out of the hole in a mixed state -- alternately giddy from excitement and mad about being buried. What happened is this, according to Chris: He and four or five boys and girls jumped in the hole dug by two other boys. Using my son and his friend as ladders, the kids climbed out. Then a bunch of girls older than Chris but still in elementary school started kicking sand into the hole until the boys's legs were buried.

As Christopher's mother, I found the experience a bit jarring. Was it all in good fun? Or was it bullying? As I watched one of the girls snicker during the rescue, I tend to think it was closer to the latter.

Sometimes I get a protective feeling.

Have you had an epic day lately? What happened?

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