It was a Saturday night in February. It had rained for two days, leaving the snow hard and ugly. We had just finished a game of Sorry in which someone (me) had tossed the board into the air before it was over. The cat was howling at the back door to go out. She had just come in. The dog was following me room to room and wedging herself under my feet wherever I sat. In a nutshell, we were all coming down with a bad case of Cabin Fever.
So I floated the idea: “Let’s go to the mall.”
Every male in the room protested.
“We’ll buy new swim trunks for spring break,” I cajoled.
“Naw, I’m good,” the 11, 13 and 42 year olds said.
“Hawaiian shirts for everyone!” I sing-songed.
“What are you even saying?” my husband asked.
He was right.
I regrouped. They weren’t interested in clothes shopping. I had to go big.
“How about Sbarro pizza?”
Kendall and Nelson looked up from the Vine video they were making.
“And a Dairy Queen malt?” I went for the throat (literally). This was a 1,000-calorie offer by a woman on a spring break diet. I hushed the voices in my head. This was for the greater good of the family.
“I’m in!” the boys chimed.
Tim couldn’t think fast enough to protest. I had played dirty and won. The boys were already in the car waiting for the rarely visited fast food paradise.
We entered the food court and laid eyes on the merry-go-round first.
“Remember how we used to ride that when we were babies?” Nelson asked, happy.
“Let’s all ride it together for old times’ sake!” I bellowed.
Too much, too soon.
I convinced them to stay with me by pointing to the huge cheese pizza sliding out of Sbarrro’s oven right before their eyes. Two slices and two breadsticks later, I had bought their souls.
The first two stores were FYE and GameStop. The boys fell upon them like bees to a hive.
“I didn’t know they had such cool stores here!” they roared. Correct. They were used to the selection at Target, not much else.
The boys went crazy. There were video games and music and movies to peruse. But, worse, there was all kinds of merchandise from said video games. Blankets, backpacks, stuffed animals, shirts, hats, every logo item you could dream of.
Everywhere I turned, it was Star Wars or Pokémon or something with hulking men and blazing guns. I was in a Mom nightmare. But I had asked for it. I stood and faced the music and offered to buy them each one little thing.
This is when Tim balked.
“You’re just buying something because?”
This act was unheard of in Tim’s world. (Well known in my world.)
“Yes,” I said. “It’s called shopping. Try it.”
With some effort, we found a used Garth Brooks CD from 1992, the year we started dating. Memory lane, priceless, I said! A price tag of $3.99 was a little on the high side, Tim said. We splurged anyway and the boys each got a logo-something to take home.
Of course the most fun of all was strolling down the main corridor of the mall. Where the ceilings are high and the voices are higher. Where there’s room to run and skip and twirl and ignore your parents’ warnings, especially on a Saturday evening when the rest of the world has a life.
We did the full circuit: Putting pennies in the big circular thing that drops them down a hole, entering to win an ATV, sitting in the massage chairs but not turning them on and getting gumballs out of the 25-cent tower of machines.
It was a good 10 or 15 minutes of fun and we were only out 52 cents more. Economical fun for a family of four! I felt close to philosophical at this point.
But I couldn’t stand it. I had to do a little of the actual thing I came for: clothes shopping. And, more to the point, I actually needed a new sports bra.
I know, I know. Why would I shop for undergarments with my boys? Because I don’t have any girls, that’s why, and while it wasn’t ideal, it was gonna have to do. (Said the voice in my head as I debated if I should do this.)
When we rounded the corner at Macy’s and entered the lingerie department, I felt a heat crawl up my neck and face. But I was role-modeling a healthy lifestyle of working out and the boys could just take it in stride! (Said in my head again, louder this time.)
The boys fell about themselves in giggles and I grabbed a couple to try on in the fitting room, escaping the scene.
I narrowed my choices with a swift and mighty hand, as I knew all three were waiting on me. It was nothing like shopping with my mother back in the day, when we could take half an afternoon to settle between two colors of the same shirt, then buy both.
Tim found a chair to camp out in, but the boys disappeared a few departments over.
Come to find out, they were busy making Vine videos of each other browsing women’s clothing, walking into mirrors and mispronouncing signs. (Example: Fitting rooms were recast as “fighting rooms.” And as I fought my way in and out of last year’s size, I had to agree.) They were having a blast. And the videos they finished were even funny for a change.
I was delighted. We were all laughing: everyone had a goody to take home and the boys had created some of their finest 6-second Vine videos ever. Success! One last stop for that promised DQ malt and we headed home.