Other than talking to my Mom on a regular basis, I also talk to my good friend Haniyyah.  We used to be coworkers at my last job until she moved to Chicago about two years ago.  She, my friend Meghan, and I all sat in the same studio.  After working on the same project for two years, we all became not only friendly coworkers, but good friends.  We all worked hard, but we brought an element of fun to our project that was otherwise extremely stressful and demanding.  Where Meghan made it very clear we were only FFs, you could say that Haniyyah and I are BFFs.  Haniyyah also has a daughter and is a stay-at-home parent like me.  So when we gab like two old ladies on the phone, we don’t talk about deadlines or TV shows anymore.  We exchange recipes, and discuss our children’s sleep schedules and poop.  Their poop, not ours.  Anyways, she was coming to town with her daughter, and we decided to take the kids mallwalking.

We went to the Fairlane Shopping Center which I found to be the worst mall ever to mallwalk in.  Which is probably why I didn’t see one single mallwalker there.  Not even a covert undercover mallwalker.  There must be a mallwalking chat room somewhere I don’t know about that ousted this mall because it was terrible.  There were three, maybe four levels, all connected by a maze of ramps and staircases.  It was like being inside a real life version of an M.C. Escher picture.  By the time you’d get any momentum going you were confronted with a decision to either go up a ramp, climb a few steps, or circles 100 yards back to find the elevator.  You could see the store you wanted to get to, but it took you twenty minutes to find the route that would take you there.  So not only was it difficult to navigate, but we were navigating with two strollers.

Now I’m no rookie to mallwalking.  I’ve been mallwalking with my wife, my mom, my friends, my dad, but never ever with someone who had another stroller.  This was new territory for me.  Not only were there two strollers, but two babies.  Haniyyah’s daughter, Zanya, eighteen months, was riding face forward and Ellie, twelve months, was still in the rear facing stroller.  Sometimes when they were riding side by side they could stare at each other.  Ellie would reach out her hand in curiosity, and then Zayna would smile back at her.  I think we were both hoping they would sleep for a little bit and wake up for lunch, but a new mall with new friends brought no naps.  We found a sitting area for the kids to play.  Zayna and Ellie had met before a few times, but it never went that well.  Zayna was always suffering from travel exhaustion and was busy hating me, so she was never able to warm up to Ellie.  Since they were a little older now, we were very curious to see how this was going to go.

When we brought them out of the strollers they seemed to ignore each other at first.  It was like they were nervous or something.  Zayna just stood there, and Ellie started doing laps around the chairs.  That was until Haniyyah brought out some snacks (I couldn’t help but notice that she kept Zayna’s snacks in nice neat cute little Tupperware jars.  I kept Ellie’s in a beat up recycled sandwich bag).  She sat there like a human bird feeder as the babies pecked away at the snacks in her hand.  I was almost expecting other random mall children to come up and start eating from her hand as well.  The snacks acted as a good ice breaker because Zayna even tried to feed Ellie a few times which was cute.  But then they got bored.  Ellie started doing laps again and Zayna just stood there making faces.  Then Haniyyah opened up her mammoth purse like she was Santa Claus.  Zayna got an iPod and Ellie came up like “hey, what do I get?  I want something, too!”  Ellie got two bracelets.  Wowee!  Ellie sat down and became fixated on those bracelets like she was trying to solve a rubix cube.  Zayna kept trying to put the headphones in her ears to “listen” to music even though the iPod was dead.

After a while, Ellie started getting fussy so I figured we should grab some food.  We packed up the stuff and after 30 minutes we eventually found the elevator.  While we were waiting, Zayna started flirting with these women in front of us.  The women could see Zayna, but not Ellie because she was still facing me.  This lady just started talking and talking to both of us about how her boys are three years apart and she didn’t know if she should get the doublewide stroller or not…  As we entered the elevator she started asking questions like, “oh, so do you have a girl and a boy, or two girls?” It was then that it clicked that she thought these were “our” kids.  We just looked at each other like “wait… what?”  When she finally saw Ellie, the lady tried to not act surprised because it was pretty clear that Ellie and Zayna were not related.  Haniyyah and Zayna are from Pakistani descent, so their skin is definitely not white.  And Ellie’sAsian eyes didn’t help matters either.  This is another thing mallwalking mom friends never have trouble with.  Does this mean anytime I walk through the mall with my kid and a woman, everyone will assume we’re married?  What if I was with another dude, would they assume we were a couple too?

When it came time for lunch, we decided on an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.  I love a good buffet, but I’ve never been to one with Ellie.  She’s going through a phase now where if she doesn’t see me, she’ll have a meltdown.  Luckily the table was in viewing distance from the buffet, but I was still a little nervous.  Haniyyah was playing Peek-A-Boo with them to distract them though.  We sat the kids in highchairs next to each other.  I was expecting them to be smiling and grabbing at each other, but they sat there like polite strangers.  Ellie ate her plate of crackers and Zayna ate her’s.  They both sat quietly and stared around the restaurant.  The server would walk by and their heads would follow him in unison.  And thenhe’d walk back and their heads would follow him back.  It looked like they were watching a slow game of tennis as their heads moved back and forth.  After a few plates of sesame chicken and two tired kids, it was time to wrap things up.

While we were bundling the kids up, I realized that we were so consumed by them and navigating the mall that we barely talked to each other.  We only said things like, “Do you want your crackers?” or “Are you pooping?”  And then as we were walking towards the exit, Haniyyah looked over and said, “It’s really depressing that you do this by yourself.”



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