I was five months pregnant with The Kid, and Petey, my mom, and I were driving north.
Unbeknownst to me, every living soul in New Jersey that was related to me in any manner was coming together to throw me a baby shower.
And this wasn’t a sweet, sedate Southern baby shower where one ate tiny little pimento cheese sandwiches, little pieces of cake, nuts, and sweet tea.
A baby shower in New Jersey, or at least the ones thrown by my Italian relatives, is a very different kind of soiree.
First of all, the attendees are not the mother-to-be, her mother, mother-in-law, her sorority sisters, and a few older ladies from church.
When I say it was every family member, I’m not kidding. This was every living sibling of my mother, their spouses, male and female, their children, their spouses or SO’s, their children, and anybody else who had a drop of shared DNA. There were new babies, babies on the way, and a few gleams in various eyes.
The tables were groaning with bowls and platters of potato and macaroni salad, sausage and meatballs to pile on sub rolls, stuffed mushrooms, at least three kinds of pasta, and zucchini and eggplant parmesan.
The cake was neither small nor dainty. It was a large, showy, whipped cream drenched confection that came from the local Italian bakery. Even if every single guest was pregnant and eating for themselves and a litter of babies, there would have been more than enough food.
I was still in the dark, party-wise, and didn’t know what was coming, so mom and Petey took me to the Englishtown mall. It was January, and I had been disappointed that there was no snow when we arrived. But at the mall door, I saw what looked like one last lonely mound of snow. So, I decided to jump into it.
After I leaped into it with both feet, I discovered it was a mound of ice cream—sticky ice cream that splashed my sweet little maternity jeans from the knees down. We went in anyway (we really entered the mall because preparations were going full tilt putting the party together). And Petey had been tasked with keeping me away.
I’m really glad about this mall visit, because of two memorable encounters I had.
The first was at a Body Shop store. When I walked in, the salesperson asked if I was expecting. Normally, this is a very dangerous question to ask, as I have learned to my own shame and embarrassment. Now I wouldn’t ask a woman if she is with child unless said child is actively exiting her body.
But, she was right and I was thrilled to tell any and everybody that I was growing a human.
She gave me a gift bag of products for the new baby and mother. Think baby wash and skin cream.
The second encounter was revelatory.
It was at lunch. The food court had a real Jersey deli. I wasn’t able to eat rare roast beef because, pregnent, so I had a Reuben. It was delicious, but the stellar part of the meal, that thing I’ll never forget, was the pickle.
It was the greatest kosher dill I have ever tasted. It was crispy and balanced and perfect. I wish I’d bought a barrel of them to bring home.
But of course, after the baby shower, there was no room in the car for a barrel of pickles. There was barely room for the three and a half of us. And we also had a stowaway.
Next week, I’ll share part two; the road home.
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