The Jaymi Face
I am sitting on the
second floor of the downtown San Francisco Macy's store, in the middle
of their sprawling, stadium-sized shoe department. In the chair next to
me sits Daughter #1, my partner in credit card excess on this
newly-spring afternoon. At our feet are spread the spoils of our day so
far: overstuffed shopping bags, understuffed pocketbooks, jackets,
water bottles, sunglasses, cell phones ... and, of course, a small
mountain range of discarded shoes, in varying colors, sizes and degrees
of podiatric cruelty. I'm not here to buy anything for myself today --
although I did
see a sweet little pair of walking sandals as we were getting off the
escalator: I wonder if they carry my size? -- but I have seized this
opportunity to kick off the scruffy Reeboks and give my pavement-weary
toes a little air.
As we wait for our
sales clerk to return with Jaymi's size sevens, I lean back in the
chair and wiggle my sweaty toes. "So?" I ask conversationally. "What do
We've been to this Macy's
before -- I remember the two of us doing some preliminary wedding dress
shopping here, a few summers back -- but to the best of my
recollection, this is the first time we've ever done more than pass
through the second floor on our way upstairs to Juniors.
"It's beeeeautiful," she
I'm not sure 'beautiful'
is a word I would use to describe Macy's Shoe Department. Bloated,
Intimidating. Excessively excessive. It reminds me of a great buzzing
beehive, filled with strident, noisy,
overdressed/overperfumed/overstimulated bees ... bees who would kill
each other totally dead, in a heartbeat, over the last pair of
lime-green Jimmy Choos. As a general rule, I prefer my shoe shopping
experiences to be somewhat less combative. (Read this:
shoesfornerdymiddleagedmoms.com.) Plus there is never anything in
Macy's shoe department for a
Size-8-on-the-Left/ Size-9-1/2-Extra-Extra-Wide-on-the-Right ... especially
for a Size-8-on-the-Left/ Size-9-1/2-Extra-Extra-Wide-on-the-Right with
*bunion issues.* I've looked. Everything I see here is severely
pointy-toed, dangerously high-heeled, ludicrously trendy.
(Although I really, really
like those walking sandals. I wonder how much they are?)
I lean toward Jaymi
again, prepared to make a snarky remark about a pair of stiletto heels
I see displayed on a nearby table -- "Do you need a permit to wear
those?" is what I'm about to say -- when I am stopped in mid-snark by
the expression on her face.
She's wearing The Jaymi
That's what I call it:
The Jaymi Face. (Although in *my* head, it's spelled The J-A-M-I-E
Face, to match the spelling on her birth certificate.) It's the face I
saw when I slid that first spoonful of Gerber applesauce into her tiny
puckered mouth ... her first taste of *sweet* after knowing nothing but
bland infant formula, her entire abbreviated life. It's the face I saw
when we walked through the door of the kindergarten classroom on her
first day of school, four thousand and a half years ago. It's the face
of birthday party invitations, of Christmas ten-speeds, of new baby siblings, of unexpected Snow Days: the true, unguarded,
no-pretense-added expression of surprise and delight that says "This
is so big and so wonderful, I almost can't wrap my brain around it."
It is my very favorite of the myriad Jaymi Faces. The fact that I
rarely get to see it up close and personal these days makes it all the
"This is the most
amazing shoe department I've ever seen," she breathes, her eyes wide as
pizza pans. For a moment it looks like she might actually weep with
joy. I take another look around me, trying to see what it is she sees
... whatever it is about the place that merits such a rapturous
reaction ... but to *my* eye it's all just a bunch of noise and
As I'm trying to figure it out, an elderly Asian-American
woman stoops to pick up one of my Reeboks.
"That's not for sale!" I
snap, and she drops my shoe with a smile and an apologetic bob of her
This has been a nice
visit, so far. All of the Tot Visits are nice -- even the
semi-disastrous Tot Visits, like last year when
came down with the flu, or the time my
bike was stolen
Jaymi's first night in town, or the time we got to the airport and
realized Kyle had left his
behind -- but it's always especially nice when there are no huge
unexpected crises to navigate our way around. The closest we've come to
a "crisis" this weekend is Upstairs Neighbor Guy electing to pogo-dance
at 2 a.m. directly over Jaymi's head, as she lay on our lumpy living
room sofa. But otherwise it has been mostly smooth-sailing. There have
been a couple of nice restaurant meals. A little girl-talk in front of
the TV. A drugstore run. A chance to show Jay around my new office on
Friday afternoon (and to show her off, finally, to JoAnne and Jane and
The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy). And now our stop at Macy's Shoe
Department, which -- if The Jaymi Face is any indication -- is better
than Iron Chef, Mom's meatloaf and the meerkat exhibit at the Oakland
Zoo, all rolled into one.
"Well," I say, "I'm glad
we decided to stop, then." And we lapse back into companionable
Our beleaguered sales
clerk returns soon afterward, balancing an armload of shoeboxes piled
to his chin. He is instantly surrounded by a swarm of shrill Queen
bees, demanding their Bandolinis and their Tasso Elbas. Jaymi -- my
well-mannered daughter -- remains in her chair, patiently waiting her
turn. Eventually she manages to lock eyes with the clerk, and he drops
the Skechers box onto the floor in front of her feet.
"Size seven," he
"Thank you," she smiles
at him sweetly. "I hope you get a nice commission."
"Hrmmmph," he snorts.
And he disappears again into the nether regions of the stock room,
never to be seen or heard from again. (No doubt strategizing a career
change. Beekeeping, perhaps?) I watch as Jaymi pulls off the size
eights and swaps them out for the smaller size, then stands up and
walks down to the end of the aisle. For the next couple of minutes she
paces in front of the mirror ... rolling back and forth on her heels,
turning her ankles in all directions, studying her feet from every
possible angle. The Jaymi Face is gone now, replaced by The Thoughtful
Jaymi Face: serious, intent, utterly focused on the task at hand (or
the task at foot, as the case may be).
"Do you like them?" she asks
finally, and I tell her yes, they're great, they're fabulous, they're
easily the most wonderful white athletic shoes I've ever seen - I
refrain from calling them "tennis shoes," which I know would pain her
-- perhaps I should see if they come in a
Size-8-on-the-Left/ Size-9-1/2-Extra-Extra-Wide-on-the-Right, and then
we can be twinsies??
The Thoughtful Jaymi
Face is replaced by The
later we are climbing aboard the escalator, shopping bags in
her bag, the white Skechers and some adorable Steve Maddens she
couldn't resist: in mine, a pair of $100 Ecco walking sandals. It's
time to go meet David at the Virgin Megastore and head back to Alameda
for a nap and an early dinner. As we roll inexorably toward the first
floor (or, as *I* refer to it, The Olfactory Assault Department),
Jaymi gives the Shoe Department one last longing glance, over her
shoulder. I imagine she would probably live here if she could: just
unroll a sleeping bag right next to the Franco Sartos.
"Don't worry," I tell her.
"We'll come back
Something tells me that we've
just added Macy's Shoe
Department to our permanent list of Places To See When Jaymi Is In Town
... along with the Vietnamese restaurant she likes so much, the groovy
drugstore over in Marina Village, Jack London Square in Oakland, Amoeba
Berkeley, The Stinking Rose in North Beach. She smiles and nods. For
the briefest moment, as she bids farewell to the second floor, there is
a last flickering glimpse of The Jaymi Face. My heart smiles. True, I'd
be just as happy if she were Jaymi-Facing over a 401K statement or a
bowl of bulgur wheat salad. But we take our moments where we find them.
The Jaymi Face is my reward: my favorite nonverbal *thank you* for all
of the planning and shopping and cleaning and running around and
maternal fuss and muss that goes into the average Tot Visit. It is my
reminder that even after umpteen visits to the Bay Area, there are
still plenty of incredibly groovy places that we haven't shown her yet.
And it is my reassurance that underneath that cool, smart,
sophisticated twenty-two year old exterior ...
... beats the heart of
my baby girl, goggle-eyed with joy over her first taste of *sweet.*
call it our *mom-and-daughter glad-to-spend-time-together* look
to throw a rock?