Aug. 21st would have been our mother’s 69th birthday. She has been gone nine years, and her birthday is bittersweet. However, we will celebrate by remembering Mom’s Olympic sport: Shopping.
She loved to go and just look around. The mall, craft shows, garage sales. The fun was in the hunt, but also in the company — usually her three daughters. Our father was baffled over how we could spend so much time shopping. He accused her of going to town every day, sometimes twice a day. Once to buy something. Once to return it. He wasn’t far off.
But Mom’s favorite move of all was to hijack one of us on a school day for a shopping spree. Many a Thursday evening ended with a casual suggestion by our mother that one of us looked sickly. Perhaps a start to a head cold? A little pink in the eye? Come here, let me feel your forehead. You are burning up.
By Friday noon, the patient was at the mall with Mom trying on Keds, keeping a watch over her shoulder for her Chem teacher.
There was really no agenda. It just happened that our mother had spent a long four days of sending her children off to school and, by Friday, she needed company. It would have to be her daughters’ company (one or all three) because all of her friends were working or living in the U.P. She was marooned in the tiny town of Interlochen, long before there was a Wendy’s at the corner. (Frostys, Dairy Queen malts or Leone’s played into all of our outings.)
Besides convincing her children they were sick (when really there was just a sale underway at Younker’s), Mom was known for a few other signature moves.
• Buying in threes. If Mom found a shirt she liked, she bought three of them. White, red and stripes. Her fashion-conscious teenage daughters would shriek in protest. Not again! That is, until we turned 40 and discovered how rare it is to find a shirt that gracefully hides our flaws. Such a rare find induces that fever mom was always hoping for.
• Hiding the shopping bags. This was to prevent a scene. Instead of listening to Dad do an inventory of money spent and duplicate shirts purchased, it was just easier to leave the bags in the car trunk until the coast was clear. Plus, it was noted with a sense of exoneration by all the women, that Dad never took issue with a trio of shirts bought for him.
• Cutting off the tags immediately. At no point was it necessary for Dad to see any jangling tags that might indicate a purchase, unworn for months, in the closet. With a deft snip-snip of the scissors, the shirt had been there forever. Nothing drove Dad madder than to see something new being purchased before the last thing had been worn through, threadbare, in tatters.
Case in point: For years he was unwilling to give up his red “koala” t-shirt from a rare trip to Busch Gardens, even after the color had faded to a uniform pink shade close to that of a Yooper’s skin tone. At the end, it was impossible to tell if he was wearing a shirt or heading out for a swim. (Again, his teenage daughters went into fits every time he strode into the room sporting the rag, but nowadays we all have our own version of the “koala.”)
There were more Mom quirks, but mostly we just have a warm blur of memories spent laughing and lunching and being too tired to carry our bags to the car. We aren’t much for shopping anymore, not without Mom. It just isn’t the same. But oh how we treasure those lazy days together before time was such a precious commodity.
We hope that you’ll find time to take your mom out, buy something frivolous together, in threes, with ice cream, and keep the bags in the trunk until Dad finds out and gives the whole lot of you a lecture. It will be a golden memory later, one you’ll treasure forever. We promise.