With Patti and I having a baby due to arrive in mid-May, co-workers and friends are organizing a couple of showers for us. What that means, of course, is that we had to register somewhere so all these good folks would know where to go to shop for our daughter-to-be.

We’re brand new at all of this.

As rookie prospective parents, we spent the first few months of pregnancy periodically asking each other if maybe, someday soon, we shouldn’t figure out just what exactly it was that the baby and we were going to need. Oh, sure, I had idly glanced at baby stuff in stores, but my initial reaction was mainly that of being astounded by the peculiar combinations of pureed foods, like chicken and pears, out of which baby chow seemed to be made.

Fortunately, right about the time we were starting to panic about our obvious lack of expertise at getting ready for the baby’s arrival, our friends David and Amy volunteered to take us to a huge baby “superstore” in Far North Dallas. Being typical East Dallas types, we rarely venture that far north, and when we do it’s usually for a pilgrimage to the kind of retailing Mecca like this that we don’t have much of in our part of town.

Of course, being the stereotypical male hunter-gatherer-type shopper, I foresaw methodically cruising through the store at a brisk pace, listing all of the stuff we could possibly need and being done in about 90 minutes.

Hah!

After about the first half hour of being confronted with warehouse-sized shelves crammed with baby stuff for every imaginable purpose, along with plenty of things I never knew existed, I had to admit that this was going to be a much longer and more complex process than I had envisioned. I was especially surprised to see all the things with grownup-recognizable designer and retailer labels, which gave me the sneaking suspicion that they were meant to appeal primarily to parents, sort of like how dog food commercials seem to be designed to make Fido’s treats look tasty for the benefit of the two-legged purchasers who write the checks.

Just trying to pick out something simple like sheets and blankets turned into a sort of psychedelic experience thanks to the riot of colors, patterns, fabrics and herds of different cute animals and cartoon characters. My head was starting to swim. I glanced far down the aisle to see David ambling slowly between what seemed to be about 50 different types of cribs, looking as dazed as I felt.

I was starting to fear that I would be haunted that night by fevered dreams of Bugs Bunny, Winnie the Pooh and Jemima Puddleduck coming after me with bar code readers. Just in time, Patti appeared and suggested sensibly that perhaps we couldn’t do it all in one afternoon and she could make a return visit later in the week.

Reflecting later that evening on my culture shock experience at the baby store, I realized how much I had to learn about this whole baby business. That kind of humbling experience is probably a really good thing right about now, because it reinforces the idea that this will be an awesome responsibility and that I need to pay serious attention to the experts who have done this before. Happily, we have a lot of family and friends who have been there and who are eager to help.

I’m still amazed, though, by my afternoon at the baby store and all the merchandise it carries, including the expensive baby items with big-name designer labels. Whenever I go back to the “scary place,” as Patti kiddingly refers to it for my benefit, I wouldn’t be that shocked to see Manolo Blahnik baby shoes or Porsche car seats. I think we can manage to avoid that kind of conspicuous consumption  — but I’m still a little worried about Bugs and Pooh.


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