I got to spend a nice chunk of my first morning in Germany with my niece Iris; just the two of us.
“Ok, so I’ll take you two up to the bookstore and I can go take care of a few errands?” My sister-in-law Michele asked me.
Which was apparently code for:
“Your asses better be sitting together right here in the children’s section on the second floor of this bookstore when I get back.”
“Yes, that’s fine. Take as long as you want. We both have our phones,” was my response.
Which was of course code for: “Just hit me on my celly, girl.” Or better yet: “See ya when I see ya, wherever I see ya.”
Unfortunately, because we reside on opposite coasts, Michele and I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to decode one another since she joined our family.
After just ten or fifteen minutes of chasing Iris around the children’s section of the second floor of the bookstore and snapping pictures of her, she was done with the second floor.
I can’t remember if she said:
“We go café.”
“We go other floor.” (Read: third floor of bookstore has a café.)
But my response was:
“Ok, Iris. We have to get the stroller.” Because I basically consider myself her personal valet for this trip. And yes, I have been watching Downton Abbey.
“Ok, I walk. I do some walking.”
“Ok but you have to hold my hand.”
And I’ll be damned if that little shit who wasn’t walking at all like fifteen minutes ago was trying to pull her hand out of mine the whole way to the elevator.
“Iris, you have to hold my hand.” I tried to give her a stern voice.
“Ok, Lizzie.” I swear she rolled her eyes at me when she said it.
When we got to the third floor and the elevator opened, I asked:
“Is this ok?”
“Ya, ya.” She was already trying to bolt on me again.
Once we cleared the elevator threshold and the open staircase that runs along the side of the bookstore, I let go of her hand (and yes, I am writing that detail in on the off chance that my sister-in-law ever reads this but it IS true).
“Café. Café. Café.” Iris started repeating.
I looked around and up and eventually saw a small café tucked in the corner at the end of the floor. We headed in that general direction.
“Pope on book. Pope on book. Pope on book.” She suddenly started repeating.
I looked around and my eyes finally caught on a table full of books featuring big pictures of Pope Francis on the cover. While I knew she and her mother attended church, I didn’t realize Iris was such a fan of the new head of the worldwide Catholic Church.
"Oh, yeah, Iris. That's the new Pope." I said, like she needed any validation from me.
We quickly arrived at the café, which was indeed very small and quite full of older people who I assumed would not be too keen on this fine, American duo as a side-dish for their morning coffee.
“It looks kind of crowded, Iris.”
“Ya, crowded. Crowded café.” She concurred.
We started to walk back toward the other end of the bookstore.
“Other café. Other café.” She suggested.
“Ok, but you have to get in the stroller.”
“Ok. I get in stroller.”
And I hoisted her in, buckled the seatbelt, and we were off. First to a sidewalk café where she had warm milk (that I ordered cold) and I had a small cappuccino (that I ordered large). We then started a walk around the city. We walked down a few different alleys and side streets off the main thoroughfares but essentially traveled in circles close to the aforementioned bookstore, passing it at least three times on our journey.
Well over an hour soon passed and I figured Michele had to be done with her errands soon.
“We’re going back to the bookstore, Iris. You can do some walking.”
“Ok. Back to bookstore.” She was less than enthusiastic.
As we walked off the elevator on the second floor and headed toward the children's section, I found a comfortable bench near the cook books. I pulled Iris out of the stroller.
“You pick a book and we’ll read it together.” I told her.
I pulled out my phone and saw I had missed a call from Michele about 10 minutes prior.
That’s odd. Why didn’t I hear the ring?
I checked the ringer and it was indeed in the "on" position.
I called her.
“Hi, Michele. Are you done with your errands?”
“Yes, where are you guys?” She sounded concerned.
“Where have you been? I was in there and looked all over.” She was very concerned.
“Walking around the city. Iris wanted to go out and walk around.”
“I’ve been looking all over for you.” Read: The valet was officially in trouble.
“Did you try calling? I only show the one call ten minutes ago.”
“Yes, several times. Where are you in the bookstore?”
I started to explain and she cut me off.
“I’m on my way.” She hung up the phone.
“I’m on my way.” She hung up the phone.
Because I have been a neurotic mother myself for more than seven years now, I knew to just settle in and get ready to take my licks.
“Iris, did you pick a book?” I turned my attention to the real culprit who was about four feet from me looking at a low shelf of books.
“Ya. Dis one.” She walked over and handed me a book with a colorful picture of children playing outside in the grass on the cover. “What it's about?” She asked.
I scanned the cover closely for an answer.
Why does everything have to be in German?
“It’s about kids playing in the summer.” I decided.
Worked for her.
“I sit in your lap.” She pointed at my lap and I hoisted her up and in.
We opened to the first, text-heavy page that fortunately had images of ice-cream cones, suns, cherries and other summertime items here and there.
“What is that, Iris?”
“What is that, Iris?”
Before long, Hurricane Mama blew in, looking completely exasperated.
“I’m sorry, Michele.”
“I was so worried.”
“Have you been done a long time?”
“Yes.” She made her way over next to me on the bench.
“I didn’t know how long you would be.” I offered, meekly.
About this time, Iris slid off my lap and walked back toward the low shelf, removing any and all buffer between her mother and me. A move I did not appreciate and will not soon forget.
Michele continued, “I looked all over the book store, then I went out into the street. I was almost crying. I thought you had all been kidnapped.”
Me, the kid, AND the stroller the size of a Smart Car? I thought to myself.
“I know it doesn’t make sense but I just couldn’t imagine where you went.”
“Iris was done with the bookstore pretty quickly and I figured you and I each had our phones. I guess now we know we can’t rely on them.” I tried to sound pragmatic and of course, blame the kid.
“You’d think we could in the city.” Michele was calming down.
“Next time, we’ll set a rendezvous time,” I suggested. I’m sure at that point Michele was thinking there won’t be a next time.
So, until next time…