We double, triple, quadrupled checked everything. Meticulously packed all items. Card holding crucial check stored in Elaine’s handbag. We packed up Sienna for her overnight stay with my parents making sure all her favorite stuffed animals were accounted for and we were good to go for our 3 and a half hour trip from New York to Pennsylvania for our friends’ wedding. We even got the front door open.
And then like an unforeseen hailstorm – tantrum.
Sienna wanted to wear her Mickey Mouse fleece despite it being 83 degrees outside and was not leaving the apartment until that red and white polka-dotted coat safely encased her torso. We tried reason, but it shockingly failed miserably. So we put her in the fleece because we had to go go go.
Got down to the car, buckled her into her carseat, and set off for my parents. Dropped her off with my dad with lunchtime instructions (like she’d eat anything) and once we plugged in our hotel’s address into Google Maps, it was time for smooth sailing pending little traffic.
Elaine and I relaxed a bit knowing we were Sienna-free for a bit more than a day. We sang along to 80s ballads. We talked about weddings and reminisced about our own. We planned to get to the hotel with hours to spare so we could unwind from the drive and shower before the cocktail hour and reception. It wasn’t until we reached the mouth of the Holland Tunnel that Elaine shouted something that made my guts fall into my shoes:
“We forgot your suit! My dress! We have nothing to wear!!”
That’s what a toddler tantrum can do. It can unravel all of your painstaking plans and careful choreography. Our formal wear stood in the closet next to the front door laughing at us fools now an hour away from home. Sienna was probably obliviously happy in the park, playing with in the sprinklers with Pop-Pop, her fleece long out of mind.
“What should we do? There’s no way not to go through the tunnel!”
“It makes no sense to go back,” Elaine said. “It’d take us 2 hours to get back here. They’ll forgive us when they hear the story.”
“We can’t go in wearing jeans and t-shirts!” I countered.
The Holland Tunnel opens right next to the Newport Mall on the New Jersey side. It was almost serendipitous. We screeched into the mall parking lot and raced to Macy’s. Time for emergency shopping!
Elaine and I raced to the women’s petite section and she desperately pulled everything in her size off the rack.
The second dress she tried on was perfect. She grabbed some gold stud earrings off a kiosk and then it was my turn. I needed slacks, a sport jacket, a tie, a shirt and a belt. Luckily we’d packed our shoes in the suitcase. We ran to the mens’ section but both of us were lost, so we asked for assistance. We told the nice woman who helped us that we were on our way to Pennsylvania and just now realized we’d forgotten our formal wear.
“What?” She said. “You know, I’m angry at you! How could you do that?”
“We have a 2-year-old. She threw a tantrum.”
“Stop right there. I forgive you. Mine’s 4. Let’s go find you an outfit.”
Elaine and the saleswoman worked together to pick out my clothes and it was perfection. The suit fit perfectly and matched Elaine’s dress. She then told us to hold onto the tags so we could return everything which didn’t feel right to me.
“You didn’t hear it from me,” the saleswoman said, “But people do it all the time. Besides, in your case it’s a toddler-related emergency. Don’t worry about it.”
We bought the clothes, drove the rest of the way to the hotel, checked in, got dressed and made it right at the end of the cocktail hour. But we had to stop and take a picture, of course. I mean, how many times does something crazy like this happen? And we did look good for being dressed almost completely off the rack. My wife looked especially hot.
I don’t know how many times we told the story, but it got huge laughs including from the bride and groom.
“You see how much we love you?” We joked. “This is what we do for you!”
It was a beautiful reception, two cultures (Indian and Chinese) coming together to form a brand new one just as Elaine (Latina) and I (Jewish) had 8 years prior. We ate and danced all while making sure not to mess up our clothes.
The following day we made a pitstop at Indian Echo Caverns which was just 20 minutes from the hotel and got to marvel at some of nature’s beauty. As I looked at the glistening stalactites and stalagmites, crystal-embedded limestone and underground lakes, I forgave my daughter for her last-second tantrum and imagined taking her to and sharing with her such a wondrous place as Echo Caverns. There’s something about appreciating each moment with your child, about not wanting them to reach the next phase in life, but there’s also something about wanting them to reach that point where they excitedly look at the green, blue, red, white rock formations just beneath a parking lot. I can’t wait to see the awe in her eyes when she sees something like this:
But that’s still 1-2 years away.
What amazes me most is how I handled the situation. No I wasn’t happy, but for some reason anxiety did not grasp my chest and leave me incapacitated. In the past I would have been reduced to jelly. I probably wouldn’t have been able to drive and it’s quite possible we never would have been there to witness our friends’ nuptials because my parents would have had to drive out to Jersey City to take my shaking, stuttering self home. But this time laughed at the ludicrousness of our predicament. This time I emergency-shopped. I problem-solved. And when we reached Queens on the way home, we dropped in at Macy’s and returned just about everything. The dress stays. Elaine’s just way too gorgeous in it.
So I forgive Sienna for being 2 and throwing a tantrum and forcing us to forget to bring our formal wear to a wedding 3 and a half hours away. I can’t be angry with her, especially since we avoided a potential fiasco and I proved to myself that I am indeed improving in the mental health department. I might not be exactly where I want to be, but I can’t refute facts.
Besides, she gave us a great story to tell.