April 19, 2004
The Jaymi Face

Saturday afternoon, mid-shopping-marathon.

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 you think?" 

We've been to this Macy's together 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 sighs.

I'm not sure 'beautiful' is a word I would use to describe Macy's Shoe Department. Bloated, maybe. Frantic. 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 the 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 Face.

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 sweeter.

"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 calfskin. 

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 head.

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 Kacie 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 backpack 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 silence.

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 mutters.

"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 me 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 My-Mom-Is-A-Pain-In-The-Ass-Sometimes-But-I-Love-Her-Anyway Face.

Forty-seven minutes later we are climbing aboard the escalator, shopping bags in tow. 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 here again." 

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 Records in 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.*

it's a good look for us, don't you think?
i call it our *mom-and-daughter glad-to-spend-time-together* look

the requisite zoo-hugdavid (on the left) & jaymi at the oakland zooat least they're not pink this is the closest i got to photographing 'the jaymi face' ... in front of the meerkat exhibit
do they sell shoes in the zoo gift shop?

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sorry it's taken me a MONTH to get this written!
[this getting-back-to-journaling stuff is harder than it looks ... ]