We're All Damaged

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What’s Your Return Policy?

When I was younger, each year about this time I’d come up with an elaborate list of my favorite things of the year.  Books, movies, albums, TV shows.  With virtually no responsibilities and an embarrassing amount of spare time, I was able to consume all of these things incessantly. 

Not so much anymore. Sadly, thanks to the two small time vampires living in my house, I now read, watch, and listen less than ever. And, to make matters worse, I now have the short-term memory of an aging, wide-eyed goldfish, which has left me unable to remember anything beyond about three and a half weeks ago. 

So, instead of struggling and Google searching and giving myself a big headache, I thought I’d skip all the pop culture stuff and share my favorite moment from this past year. Somehow, all by itself, it manages to be both a perfect year-end review for 2012 and an exact microcosm of my current life.

A few weeks ago, plagued by cabin fever and an odd wave of naïve optimism, my wife and I decided to take both our daughters to the shopping mall by our house.  Our first stop was the Macy’s restroom where my three-year-old, Caroline, tried unsuccessfully to go to the bathroom. Our second stop was a different Macy’s restroom where Caroline tried unsuccessfully again to go to the bathroom.   

“It’s not coming out,” she told me.

“Are you sure?”


And so we soldiered on. Our destination: J.Crew.  I needed to find one more present for my dad, and my wife had a bunch of stuff from the store’s website to return.  Like a lot of unnecessarily tall women, about 90% of what she buys online goes back immediately.

With her mother distracted at the register, my one-year-old, Hazel, sensed weakness and demanded I let her out of the stroller. She did this by writhing and screaming like a wild animal who’d been tethered to a cinder block. When I set her down, she took off running toward…well, everything.  First, she tried to flip over all of the mannequins.  Then she unfolded an entire table of colorful wool sweaters.  Then she hid inside a clearance rack of polos and laughed at me. All the while, I kept one eye on Caroline.  She stood quietly, examining some long necklaces on a table by the registers—too quietly, actually, but I was distracted by the fact that Hazel was now attempting to barge into occupied dressing rooms.

By then, a long, impatient-looking line had formed behind my wife.  As luck would have it, this line was made up entirely of people in their teens and twenties. When I came out from the dressing room carrying an angry Hazel, I noticed that everyone in this line, each of them well-rested and childless, was looking at Caroline. She was saying “Mommy” over and over again, and her expression had turned panicky.

I knew right away what was happening, but I also knew that there was nothing I could do about it.  I imagine it’s how a person feels seconds before witnessing a train derailment. 

And then Caroline announced to all of us that poop was coming out. 

Happy New Year, everyone. 



  1. Great story! I'm stealing your idea and doing away with the "best of" lists from last year...not because I have two youngins...but because I am simply too scattered to compile a worthy list. Cannot wait for your next book! Happy New Year to you and your family!

  2. Happy New Year MN! Glad to see latest post. I nearly peed my pants. Best to you and the family.

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  4. Thouroughly enjoyable book...that i followed to this blog. I laughed and cried. Stayed home all day just to finish. You are refreshing! A bright spot iin a strange world! More please....