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!
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