Two facts: 1) I needed a Santa Claus hat. Since this is my first year as the jolly ol’gifter I wanted to do it in style…you know, cookies, Jenni in a Santa’s helper outfit, and a hat. 2) It was cold that day and I left my “go-to” hat at home.
So after ZK’s first Christmas concert, we walked to lunch and passed a hat shop. I found the perfect Santa hat; just the right combination of festive red, fluffy white, and my kinda whimsy. My intention was to wear it out of the store but ZK loved it and wanted to hold it for a while. When she was finished, however, I paraded it down the street in a place of honor.
Sure, we got a few smiles, but it wasn’t until we hit the market that I realized we were causing a stir. Mom, Pat, and Jenni were looking at necklaces. ZK and I walked down to a more open space to get out of the way. She was pointing at EVERYTHING saying “what’s that?” (which sounds more like “Zat?” at the moment) and getting me to tell her. Engrossed in this beautiful girl, I gradually noticed that not many people were passing by. When I stopped to look up, a large semi-circle had formed around us with many people taking pictures. ZK, ever the flirt and ham, ate it up. Some people continued on, others stopped for a few words, others joked with me…
Them: “Nice hat.”
Them: “No, I was talking about HER hat.”
Me: “Good one!” <nudge, nudge> “I’ve heard that three times already, joker.”
Somewhere out there, in the electronic cloud of info and pixelled memories, are images of ZK and me in our holiday best. (If you stumble upon any of them, let me know).
In other news:
I enjoy having my assumptions challenged and am, more or less, constantly on the look-out for those surprising moments of enlightenment that change my perception of things. One of these moments occurred recently while entering ZK’s favorite watering-hole, our local Starbucks.
We used to visit this particular Starbucks everyday, just ZK and me during the week, all three (sometimes four) of us on weekends. Needless to say, ZK is a big hit there. The staff and many of the customers know her by name and come to talk to us frequently. Many customers have been going there as long as we have (ZK since 3 days old) and have gotten to watch her grow. One group of retired gentlemen, however, never seemed very friendly. They never smiled and sometimes seemed to scowl when looking our way. I assumed that they, perhaps, did not approve of me being a stay-at-home dad. This went on for over a year.
Not long ago, this assumption was challenged…and I was humbled. As I was pushing the stroller into the store, one of the gentlemen was approaching at the same time. He jumped forward to open it for me and I thanked him. He replied, “It’s the least I could do for someone with your job. You deserve it.” I was simultaneously proud, shocked, embarrassed, and humbled. After thanking him for that compliment I thought about how much I needed it. Not so much for the recognition, but for the metaphorical blow to my assumption. I was projecting some of my own doubts onto these men without warrant and after a year of became complacent in my judgement. (Jay, eat your humble pie).
After this interaction, the first words exchanged with any of them, a couple of them now come up to me regularly to see ZK, tell me how lucky I am that she’s so well-mannered, and chat for a spell. Perhaps what I saw as scowls was really fear of my mean-mug. I do, after all, put the laughter in “slaughter.” It comes with the territory of being a zombie-killin’, dragon-slayin’ extraordinaire.