“So…how old is your baby now?”
Inside, I cringed and maybe even cowered away at the question. Externally, trapped though I was waiting in line to take one of our kindergarteners for photo retakes, I smiled sadly and said, “I don’t have a baby.”
The parent who’s child was in our class last year and clearly had heard my name churned out by the rumor mill, replied, ‘Huh, I thought you were pregnant. That wasn’t you?”. I could see her doing the math in her head, glancing at my not so slim figure and trying to recall who it was that was supposed to have a child in the fall.
I could’ve said, “No.” I could’ve ended it at that and avoided much of the awkwardness, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to lie.
“No,” I said, “that was me, but I don’t have a baby now.”
Her face grew instantly flushed, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she mumbled, turning towards me and reaching out a hand. She almost put her arm around me, but something made her withdraw that touch. Her friend, another parent who’s eyes never left the floor said, “oh…..”.
“I didn’t hear, ” she said.
“It’s ok,” I told her, ” I didn’t exactly broadcast the news. There’s no way you could know.”
“That’s so hard, ” her friend muttered, quickly busying herself with her son, who’s hair was destined to revolt into a staticky cowlick before photos would commence. I blinked back a tear and cleared my throat to chase away the lump that had surfaced.
For fifteen minutes, I shuffled behind them in line, making small talk, chatting about hot lunch, distracting myself with the little girl at my side who told me her mom wouldn’t let her wear her Halloween costume for pictures.
Shuffle, stop, small talk, shuffle, stop, small talk, shuffle, stop, small talk, stop.
Cheese, smile, snap.
Back to class, back to normal.