I allowed my daughter to leave the house the other night dressed like a floozy. She had on short shorts, high heels, a halter top and fishnet hose. Her hair was teased to ludicrous levels and she sported a KISS-like spiky thing drawn around her right eye. The reason for this was a Ke$ha concert. I have no idea who this Ke$ha is, but the dollar sign in her name tells me a lot.
If my mother had seen her granddaughter in this getup, she would have called CPS and had me arrested. Proper dress was a religion with my mom and she never deviated from it. Unlike my high school best friend who had five siblings to help disperse the parental heat, I was an only child and therefore had my mother's eyes focused on me like lasers. It wasn't until I was in college and away from home that I was able to shop for clothes without my mother there to approve or disapprove.
Even my dad got into the act. Each year when I shopped for a bathing suit, Daddy insisted on tagging along and he had the final say on what I bought. It was mortifying to have to step out of the dressing room and parade around in public, and my furtive appearances lasted about two seconds. Lest you, dear reader, get the wrong idea, I couldn't have asked for a more loving and supportive father, but he felt it was his paternal duty to make sure my girly bits were decently covered. Fortunately, by the time I got to junior high, he stopped going on these shopping trips, but I still had Mom to deal with.
When I was in the eighth grade, the powers that be decided to allow girls to wear pants to school. My mother was appalled at the very thought and immediately launched a boycott; I was not permitted to wear pants to school, only dresses and skirts. I can remember waiting for the bus on cold mornings, shivering in my pantyhose, while the other girls were warm in jeans and pants. Thankfully, Houston is sub-tropical so winter doesn't carry much of a bite, but it was miserable going some days. I don't know exactly what kind of message my mother hoped to send to the HISD school board by forcing me show up to class everyday in dresses, but the fact is, I was the one who suffered the brunt of her so-called boycott. No one else cared, or even noticed.
In the spring of that school year, Mom went to the hospital to have a hysterectomy. This was back when surgery meant a prolonged stay; none of this drive-thru business like now. For one glorious week, I wore what I wanted to school. My father was far too preoccupied with my mother to care how I dressed. I really don't think he'd have noticed if I'd pranced out naked. It was heady stuff, let me tell you, but once Mom was back on the home turf, my little spark of rebellion came to an end.
Ninth grade, Mom announced that I could now wear pants to school. This came with a caveat: ONLY dress pants, or pantsuits, as they were called back then. Absolutely, positively NO blue jeans. Even when Sadie Hawkins rolled around in the fall and everyone else was dressing in overalls, patched jeans, flannel shirts and straw hats, I had to wear slacks.
The upside to my mother's strict dress code was that I was probably the only girl in school who regularly bought clothes from Neiman-Marcus, Sakowitz, Saks Fifth Avenue and the like. Still though, once I headed off to college, the expensive wardrobe my mother sent with me got stuck in the back of the closet in favor of jeans, shorts, tees and flip-flops. The good stuff got dragged out for dates.
As a mother, I had a much more lenient approach to clothes, basically three rules: no thong underwear (I surrendered on this issue after a few years), no jeans with holes, and nothing that promotes popular culture, like Barbie or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We had our battles from time to time, usually over my kids wanting the more expensive items, but by keeping things in their proper perspective, we avoided a lot of the tension I grew up with. The Ke$ha outfit excepted, my daughter actually has a much better sense of style than I do, but that's pretty easy to do when you are a size six.
I hate shopping. I don't care what I'm shopping for, I hate it. Probably the one exception would be shopping for a luxury car, but after paying for three college educations, I sincerely doubt that will ever happen.
Grocery shopping ranks at the very bottom of all the possible shopping expeditions. It takes such a huge chunk out of the day, like this:
1) Figure out what to serve for dinner for the next several days. Don't forget breakfast, lunch and snacks. Double everything if younger son is home.
2) Make shopping list.
3) Drive to store.
4) Realize I left list at home.
5) Drive home and get list.
6) Drive back to store.
7) Do actual shopping. During this time a) glare at the idiots who insist on parking their carts smack-dab in the middle of the aisle, so you can't get around them, and b) text daughter to ask exactly what kind of facial scrub/shampoo/lotion/make-up remover/toothpaste/mouthwash she needs.
8) Wait in check-out line.
9) Show the clerk my ID to prove I'm old enough to purchase beer and wine. (It used to be kind of funny. Now, I just find it annoying. I'm 52 and generally look it, for cripes's sake.)
10) Load groceries in the car.
11) Drive home.
12) Drag groceries into the kitchen.
13) Chase down cat who escaped to freedom while garage door was open.
14) Put everything away.
15) Text husband to ask where he wants to go for dinner.
I would love to unload (ha) this chore on my husband, but unfortunately, his shopping criteria leaves a lot to be desired. I'm very picky, he's not, so it's just easier if I do the shopping to avoid putting up with the wilted vegetables, off brands, and other weird crap he brings home.
Several years ago, we moved my parents to the Dallas area so we could keep a closer eye on them. Since neither could no longer see well enough to drive, it fell to me to take them to the grocery store. You should understand that my parents were completely devoted to one another for 61 years and seldom argued, but grocery shopping brought out the worst in each of them. There was so much bickering over what to buy, what variety to buy, or what size to buy, that it would get embarrassing, and I would have to walk off just so people wouldn't think I was related to the elderly couple snarling at each other over the ground beef.
Probably because she was raised during the Depression, my mother is extremely frugal and hates to throw anything out, especially food. If she can't purchase something that she can quickly consume, she'll just do without it. While I admire her stance --- up to a point --- in my mind, a widow at the age of 86 has earned the right to buy whatever she damn well wants. Consequently, some of our grocery excursions have been tense because I don't like her martyr attitude, and she doesn't care for my scorched earth policy. But there are instances when her craving for something will win out and when that happens, she insists that I take home half. Then it becomes my responsibility to toss out what she can't bring herself to do, a sort of kitchen version of don't ask, don't tell.
My younger son comes home next week for a very brief visit before heading back to A&M. After a summer spent eating MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), the Army's greatly updated (and very interesting) adaptation of Civil War hardtack, he is going to be ravenous for some home cooking.
I've already got my list started.
I admit it. I am a math doofus. I am in awe of people who have jobs that require a knowledge of numbers higher than I have fingers and toes to count on.
Thankfully, the three I gave birth to did not inherit my defective math genes. My older son is three months away from acquiring his CPA certification, my younger son is studying economics, and even my daughter, who is the quintessential blonde, zipped through her high school math courses without breaking a sweat. She actually had offers from classmates to tutor them in pre-calculus.
I did fine in math in elementary school. It was when algebra reared its ugly head in junior high that the problems started. It was so bad, that eventually even something as simple as 2 + 2 was enough to bring on a cold sweat. I will never forget the day when my geometry teacher, a really nice man named Mr. Watts, asked to see our report cards to make sure the computer hadn't messed up the grades he'd given us. He looked at mine, all A's and a lonely D, my very first one, looked back at me and mouthed "I'm sorry". I could tell he felt badly for me, but apparently not badly enough to offer to bring the D up to a more respectable B.
Today, my daughter and I went to the fabric store to purchase some fabric to cover the big bulletin board in her dorm room. The board is 77" long and 41" high. The fabric she wanted to buy was 45" wide. I was bright enough to know that the material would adequately cover the height of the board, but how much to buy was more than my little ol' brain could handle. Before I could get a pencil and a piece of scrap paper out to start figuring the math, Miss Blondie crunched the numbers in her head and announced that 2 1/2 yards would do the job, with a little extra left over for a small crafts project. Now I know that was nothing more than simple arithmetic, but I was impressed that she could whomp up the answer so effortlessly. Even so, I double-checked her results while she went off to find ribbon trim. It took me five minutes with my paper and pencil, but by gum, she got it!
The next challenge was the ribbon. The ribbon is packaged in nine-foot lengths, the board's perimeter is 236". How many spools of ribbon do we buy? Oh, geez Louise. Again, my offspring came to the rescue. I'm convinced if she hadn't been with me, I'd be there still, counting on my fingers and trying to divide some number into zero.
Since my father died about 18 months ago, I've been balancing my mother's bank statements. Until I was forced to take over this chore, I had not willingly balanced a statement, or so much as looked at one, since college. Bank statements and I do not get along. Spring semester of my sophomore year, my parents had to shell out a lot of money in overdraft charges because I did not know that banks charged monthly fees. I also wrote a lot of 50 cent checks for french fries that I forgot to record in my checkbook. These things added up over time until one day I went shopping for Christmas presents and unknowingly littered the town with bad checks. Suddenly I was College Station's Most Wanted, not to mention Most Embarrassed after presenting myself at a half-dozen various establishments to pay up what was owed.
So after nearly 30 years of not having to deal with bank statements, I was back facing my old nemesis. As luck would have it, about two months after I took charge of the bank balancing I discovered my mother was off by almost $3,000.00, and the "off" was not in her favor, either. Trying not to whimper because she was sitting right there waiting for me to finish, I looked the statement over again and saw two withdrawals made to Wal-mart for that amount. My mother does not shop at Wal-mart, but someone, somewhere, had gone to town on her checking account. The news that she had been the victim of fraud just weeks after her husband of 61 years had passed away, did not go down well, but we got through it and I still balance her account each month. People who are comfortable with numbers cannot understand the head rush that ensues when I...moi...manage to balance to the penny on the first pass. It's such a little thing, but it gives me hope that maybe someday I might be able to retire my fingers.
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