While out Christmas shopping one day, my husband and I went to a store across from the SMU campus called McCartney's. This place sells everything Greek you can imagine and we bought our daughter some Zeta Tau Alpha knick-knacks. It wasn't until I got home and started wrapping the items that I realized what I had done...I had become my mother. Let me explain.
One Christmas, during my tenure at Texas A&M, my mother went overboard on the Aggie stuff. That wouldn't have been so bad if the gifts had been useful. Among other things, I remember getting an Aggie mug (a ceramic mug with the handle inside), a couple of Aggie joke books, and TWO different kinds of calculators. One was a giant pencil attached to an electrical cord, the other a thin plastic rectangle with holes to stick your fingers through. I also got a maroon and white striped necktie. I never really understood the significance of the tie. Did she mean for me to wear it? because neckties were a preppy fashion statement for ladies back in the day, a la Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Or did she mean for me to hang it over my dorm room door knob, which was a whole other kind of statement?
At any rate, by loading up on sorority stuff, I was doing to my daughter what my mother had done to me. The apple didn't fall far from the tree, no matter how much I try to kick the damn thing out from under its shade.
Speaking of ties, my older son got three of them. Two from us were an early Christmas gift. He needed a tie for a dress-up office party and was going to borrow one from his dad, when I told him I would buy a couple for him instead and make them an early gift. Then his grandfather got in the act and bought him another tie. Poor kid already knows what Father's Day is going to be like down the road. I couldn't blame him for wanting to exchange one of the ties for something else.
In keeping with the mandate that middle children are overlooked, I don't remember what we got Brent.
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 am taking my 86-year-old mother shopping tomorrow and already I'm dreading it. Mom insists on buying the kinds of things she bought 30 years ago, which would be fine if they still made those things. As a result, our shopping trips often end with my mother upset at the march of progress, and me extremely put out with her unwillingness to be a little bit flexible.
Case in point: neck pillow. There used to be a store in Houston, where my parents lived for many years, called Kaplan's Ben Hur. Kaplan's carried items you weren't likely to find in the big department stores. It was a fun place to browse and even as a fashion-conscious teenage girl, I found some beautiful clothes there. In fact, my high school graduation dress, a margarita-green knit wrap-around with a floaty skirt and cap sleeves, was a Kaplan's find.
But I digress. Back to the neck pillow. Mom bought one at Kaplan's. It was made of U-shaped foam rubber and covered in baby blue satin that could be removed and washed. Jump forward 30-some years later, and the blue satin has the texture of one-ply toilet paper and the foam rubber has chunks missing. Mom finally decided it was time to retire the old neck pillow and purchase a new one. Easy, right? Lots of neck pillows out there, right? You can find them at Walgreens for crying out loud, but no one carries that particular kind of pillow. The ones made now are inflatable or stuffed with those teeny, tiny white polystyrene beads that, if they escape whatever they are confined in, cling to everything and are impossible to completely remove. I know this from personal experience because our old bull terrier got bored one day, chewed a huge hole in a bean bag chair, and then, deciding she hadn't made a big enough mess, dragged it through the house, disgorging its contents on the living and the non-living alike.
Again, I digress. Back to the pillow. I toted my mother all over town trying to find an exact replica of the Kaplan's pillow. None of the 562 neck pillows we looked at were suitable. The fabric was wrong, the filling was wrong, or the color was wrong. They were too firm, too soft, not washable, or too expensive. As a last resort, I scoured the Internet, and I had no luck there, either. Mom still has that awful little pillow.
Another item we wrangled over was kitchen gloves. My mother is a big believer in kitchen gloves. For as long as I can remember, she bought yellow Playtex Living gloves, the ones "so flexible you can pick up a dime". She used them for just about every household chore imaginable and her hands, unlike mine, look very nice, even at the age of 86, which I'm not. A while back, she needed new gloves to replace the old ones that had sprung a leak, so we headed to the grocery store and the aisle with the cleaning products. Hanging right there at eye level, they have Playtex Living gloves (yay!), they have her size (double yay!), but they are all purple (crap!). They had an off-brand in yellow, but I knew better than to try to talk her into buying generic; she is suspicious of anything generic. But I truly thought she'd swing with purple; they are just lousy kitchen gloves, right? Wrong. For five minutes, we stood there while I gave her every argument I could muster to persuade her to buy the freaking purple gloves (I was on my high school's debate team). She wouldn't budge, and if you will pardon the pun, we left the store empty-handed. Eventually though, the leak got bad enough that she was forced to buy those purple gloves. Interestingly, the last time she needed new gloves, they had Playtex Living in yellow. I would have bet the house she'd want to go back to her old pal, but she was fine with purple. There's just no figuring her out sometimes.
I could go on: bedroom slippers, bath towels, knee-hi hose, Max Factor Pancake make-up (there's a whole blog in that one), and pens are just a few of the things that have nearly institutionalized me. Tomorrow, we will be looking for a summer-weight robe, some casual pants and underwear. Wish me luck!
I dragged my daughter to the mall the other day so we could make a dent in her college shopping list. Here are some observations:
1) Boys are much easier to shop for than girls. Boys don't care if the sheets are a scratchy 200 ct or the softer 300 ct. They don't care if the blanket is the wrong shade of blue, or that the towels don't match the comforter. It is not necessary to drive all over town for the "right" wastebasket, and they do not want to cover their bulletin boards in coordinating fabric with ribbon trim.
2) Good luck finding twin-XL bedding that isn't ugly.
3) Apparently Texas Tech co-eds of a generation or two ago were taller. My sister-in-law, a Tech graduate, is 5' 9" or thereabouts. My daughter, her niece, is 5' 4". We had to purchase a step-stool --- pink, of course --- because the mirrors over the built-in dressers are too high.
4) It's going to be hell hauling this stuff up to the eighth floor of Chitwood Hall on move-in day. I mention this because schlepping bags and parcels from the mall to the car in Dallas in July during a record heat wave got me to thinking it's going to be worse in Lubbock in August. Much worse.
5) It is impossible to shop with an 18-year-old girl without making frequent detours to the clothing, shoe and cosmetics departments.
6) Apparently shopping in the "wrong" mall can scar one for life. In Dallas, NorthPark Mall is THE mall, and with good reason. Normally, that's where we shop. But for this trip we headed to another mall because they have a store that stocks the aforementioned twin-XL bedding. It's actually a nice mall, but you'd have thought we'd gone to a Wal-Mart in east Texas the way Paige carried on.
7) Boys are much easier to shop for than girls, part two. Dorm decor for boys generally consists of a poster or two of half-naked ladies and beer cans stacked in a pyramid. The more ambitious might spring for a lava lamp or an ashtray shaped like a toilet. Girls, however, require a trip to a home decor store. In our case, it was Hobby Lobby because it was all 50 percent off. Based on her purchases, my daughter must have trouble remembering her name because nearly everything she bought had her initial on it: a big, glittery, neon-purple "P", an ornate "P" in a black frame with rhinestones, a picture frame with -- you guessed it -- a "P" on the side and also in rhinestones, and a throw pillow with a "P" embroidered on it.
And we aren't even close to being finished.
Shopped and dropped,
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