Today I took Mary for her four year pictures. She celebrated her birthday with lunch at American Girl with Mommy...back in October, when it was her, you know, birthday. My goal for next year is to get them done in January or February and then slowly edge back to October by the time she's seven or so. Because I'm great like that.
My in laws came along to help me baby wrangle and to watch the spectacular, and I have to say, Mary did great. She smiled for the camera, didn't get stubborn about poses, and generally had fun. We concluded with lunch at the food court, since our restaurant of choice wouldn't open for another half an hour, and really, I wasn't going to push my luck with Miss Lily's contentedness for that long.
The older girls settled in to burgers and fries, and then Mary noticed the various mechanical ride-on vehicles in the center of the food court.
"Mommy, after lunch can we ride on those cars?"
"No, hon, they cost money and Mommy doesn't have any quarters." (When do I ever have quarters? I imagine in the near future even the mechanical horses and boats of the world will take credit cards.)
She and Anna wrapped it up with lightning speed and minimal ketchup spillage, and Sue and I were still eating. Paul had meandered off to purchase golf balls, and Lily was finishing up a course of applesauce with gusto.
"Mommy, can we sit on the cars?" The cars, it should be noted, were barely 10 feet away and the food court was empty.
"Sure, I guess," I answered. "But remember, I don't have quarters, so don't ask. You can pretend to ride them, but when it's time to leave, you need to come back."
"YAAAAAAY!" They were off like a shot. They pretended to drive a boat, serve ice cream from the truck, race a car. Mary found herself sitting in some kind of kiddie roller coaster simulator when one of the mall's custodians came by.
"HI!" (The world is Mary's best friend. Stranger danger? What's that?)
"Hello," the woman said. She was somewhere between my age and my mother in law's, and didn't seem perturbed by an overly friendly preschooler keeping her from work.
"We are riding on these cars," Mary continued in a conversational tone. "But Mommy doesn't have any money so we are just pretending!" And then, to my horror, I see the woman reaching into her pocket and pulling out some dollar bills.
"Oh, no, that's okay!" Sue and I call over. "She's fine!"
"No, I want to," the lady said, and now I'm feeling bad, because a custodian job can't pay that much, and we just bought pictures, and here's my kid saying we're broke as a joke.
"It's really okay," I said, walking over. "Thank you so much, but she's fine."
"No, no," the kind stranger insisted, and slipped a dollar bill into the roller coaster simulator. Mary grinned.
"That's really very kind," I said. "Thank you."
And nothing happened.
We pressed the start button. Nothing.
We pressed the money return button. Nothing.
We pressed start again.
Are you noticing a pattern?
"That was so nice of you," I said. "Thank you anyway. Mary, thank the really nice lady."
"Thank you anyway!" Mary chirped. I went back to my chair, in time to notice another custodian come by and the lady stop him. Now there were two people trying to make the simulator work, I am blushing and wanting to crawl in a hole, and Mary has wandered off to drive the ice cream truck again. At this point I saw my father in law, explained the situation and he got some quarters and started the ice cream truck up.
The two custodians gave up on the simulator (and hopes of retrieving the lost dollar) and walked away. Mary and Anna pretended to serve ice cream and laughed up a storm, their giggles echoing around the still nearly empty food court.