It was 3 p.m. and the car was cozying up. KING (98.1 FM) was on, the heater was blasting, and my daughter was falling asleep. Stopping for coffee seemed like a wise idea.
The first espresso stand I saw had one of those nifty "Our coffee is so good we wear our clothes" signs. But bummer for me, it was closed.
I drove up the highway to the next exit. This time I saw a really cool-looking coffee stand, painted to look like a candy cane. "This place really goes all out decorating for Christmas," I said to the kids.
The first thing I noticed when I pulled up to the window was that the barista was wearing black lace. The second thing I saw was skin -- lots of skin. It was 41 degrees outside and opening and closing that full-length window must have been really chilly.
I threw the car into drive and made the quickest U-turn ever, just as my 7-year-old son was asking, "Why's that lady in her underwear?"
That's a good question, but try explaining the real answer to your second-grader.
I wish I could remember the barista's face instead of her garter belt. All I saw were "the goods." I was an accidental voyeur, one who didn't even buy any coffee.
When we got to the potluck in Arlington, there were cousins everywhere. Nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles … you name it. Sometime after dinner the kids paraded through the kitchen with the noisiest musical instruments known to mankind. Then they were playing dress-up, with wigs, swords and pompoms. It was your typical family gathering.
My 3-year-old entered the living room in a tutu, fairy wings and a princess top. She waved her magic wand and spun around. Everyone smiled.
For some reason, this made me think about the barista from the coffee stand. Fifteen years ago she might have been a fairy princess too. I bet you she still is, especially to her parents. Somewhere under all that makeup is somebody's daughter. That's the part that breaks my heart.
I wish I could tell her parents right now, "I'm sorry I saw your child in her underwear. It was an accident."
But I've also been thinking about the other parents who are part of this equation, too. They are the moms and dads of the grown men who are keeping that coffee stand in business. Probably those parents (the mothers especially) wish their sons were going to Starbucks instead.
I'm not one who buys a lot of fancy coffee, but this week I'm going to make an exception. The next time I see a coffee stand bragging about how fully clothed their baristas are, you can better believe I will stop. Will you join me?
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.
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