Looks Can Be Deceiving

Shamelessly cute, right? How quickly they can turn...
Shamelessly cute, right? How quickly they can turn…

The picture on the left of my two daughters, Maddo and Little Sis, was taken recently at the J.C. Penney photo studio in Concord, Calif. J.C. Penney isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a shame. The company’s hiring of Apple retail head Ron Johnson as Chief Executive turned out to be disastrous, and with high-balling investors fleeing from Penney’s stock, it’s possible that J.C. Penney, which fired Johnson in April after just 15 months on the job, might not survive another year in operation.

But, there is one thing that J.C. Penney continues to do well, and that is run its in-store photo studios. My wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, and I have been customers there since our first photo shoot with Maddo, back when she was just three months old. At times, it can get crowded, but the pictures always turn out great, even after the girls have melted down faster than a bowl of ice cream left out in a Houston parking lot in August.

I posted this picture to my Facebook pages, located here and here. In less than a day, I had gotten a total of 62 “likes” for that photo. And in this day and age, Facebook likes are, well, like currency to those who shamelessly promote themselves online. Like myself.

But, back to J.C. Penney. The session was excellent. The photographer, Jaymie, was great, and the girls, for the first time ever during one of these shoots, didn’t try to run away, climb over everything, or scream at glass-shattering levels for no conceivable reason.

Of course, they saved all of that for when my wife and I tried to take them shopping afterward.

My mom is from North Carolina, which means she’s from the South, which means she’s full of all kinds of “Southern” sayings, and retains use of them even after 50 years of living near Seattle. One of her best is that when someone acts up, they “show themselves.” And few people have “showed themselves” more than my daughters did after that photo shoot.

Take a look at those two angels. Now, imagine the opposite. Hell, if you have kids, you don’t have to imagine it. You might be living it RIGHT NOW. Kids that can seem darling and sweeter than cotton candy one minute often act like they wouldn’t be out of place participating in the Rape of Nanking moments later. My girls didn’t go that far, but as my wife went around the store to look at clothes for both them and her, I found myself playing a defense so bad that it would have made the Oakland Raiders on-field sieve seem like the Hoover Dam.

They did the normal thing two pre-schooler will do in this circumstance, and that is raise bloody hell. Racks of clothes became hiding places. Shirts went flying, when they weren’t being stomped on. One would inevitably run 30 feet in the opposite direction of the other. I nearly tore my ACL trying to keep Little Sis from tearing ass into a family that looked like they just arrived from the San Francisco 49ers Team Store. Even the kid in the stroller had on at least one piece of Niners garb.

Of course, all of this was done with a torrent of laughs, cries and screams. Especially when one of the girls would go charging into a display rack, or each other. Amazingly, no one spilled any blood.

Eventually, my wife came over and grabbed Little Sis, who then proceeded to do her impression of a captured alligator, thrashing her arms and legs about and baring a lot of teeth. Maddo wasn’t much better; she just kept trying to run away from us. The only thing that settled her down was when my wife said she was taking away four bucks from the kid’s collection of dollars she earned for every night she didn’t wet the bed.

“Did you SEE the way other people looked at us?” She seethed as we left. “It was EMBARASSING!”

I replied in my usual, half-coherent state.

“Uh, no. But who cares? We’re never going to see them again.”

The thing is, these days, where everyone videos everything on their cellphones, and just about anything aside from bringing a sopping wet dog into a grocery store is grounds for a lawsuit, you can’t help but think everyone is watching you and waiting for you to land a haymaker upon your kid’s jaw when they start acting up. When I was kid, I know I got spanked in public a few times, and no one cared. I probably deserved it, too. Today, a love tap on a kid’s butt can get you thrown into county for 30 days for “reckless endangerment of a minor”.

We finally made our way out to the car, and then it was my time to cry. My wife told our daughters that, “Because of your behavior, now we don’t get to go to lunch at daddy’s favorite place!” I thought for a second she was talking about Seattle steakhouse El Gaucho, but then I looked and saw the exterior of the Red Robin, the only one I know of in a 40 miles radius.

I turned to my wife and creaked out a sheepish “Really?” in the hope that she wasn’t serious.

Oh, but the eye daggers she shot back left no doubt about her feelings. Looks can be deceiving [See the “Angels” in the picture above], but there was no mistaking from her face that the endless basket of fries that I had dreamed of would have to wait.

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