I was sitting outside the Apple Store in Portland’s Maine Mall yesterday in one of the few comfortable chairs in the entire mall – I don’t understand that part – text messaging a friend up in Waldoboro kind of rubbing it in for his being stuck so far in the boonies while I was basking in the glow of glitzy computing hardware. 

I looked up at the passing crowd – this is my favorite mall activity as actually shopping in a mall is my idea of a consumer root canal (Apple Stores are excluded from this judgement) – when I locked onto a young couple pushing a baby carriage at a leisurely pace. Not that remarkable in and of itself, but their choice of attire was. Both wore loose tops that sort of flapped down around their knees and did not touch a body part, both being noticeably thin in a parade noticeably porky shoppers.

It was not so much what they wore as how they wore it. Both of them could have gotten into either top. I can see it now. No, let’s pass on that. Next were the jeans which magically did not fall down around their ankles. Loose is the word and yet it does not quite make the picture work. And, and this is the real “badge” of the clan, they seemed to be walking on at least a foot of their jeans which were frayed and tattered beyond any evidence of a hem or other finished stitching. Oh and the laces on her right shoe were flopping about like buggy whips which I was convinced was going to trip her on her next step. I actually had the intense but brief impulse to run over and say something like, “Mam, (okay, it’s a southern thing), please tie your shoe laces before you trip and land on top of the baby.”

The baby: I am not that good with the ages of pre-todler infants but I’d guess this one to be somewhere in the 4 to 6 month range from the brief glance I had. The carriage was nice and new, and there was something about the couple that said the child was in good hands. I just couldn’t get the floppy jeans and laces out of my mind.

This is what it was: the heads. Their faces were animated, aware and clear. Both had longish but quite well cared-for hair. The heads were those of responsible and, though young, rapidly maturing adults who were reluctant to let go of some of the comfortable and familiar trappings of adolescence, so close on their heels.

I had to smile. It’s been so long. I usually carried the baby and she carried the accessory bag. I can smell the baby’s head even now. Oh well. I think back then I used to roll my pant legs up a notch or two. It was comforting and familiar.

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