The lights flashed and flickered into darkness as Mom finished her fifth catwalk down the aisle. I sighed yet again, noticeably upset that I had traded in a beautiful lightning storm for women’s shoes. As I understood it, Mom needed a third pair of Asics to replace her current “good pair” which she would wear down to Florida next week. Her original pair, though perfect for sporting around the house, could not be seen outside the house lest the world mock her for unclean running shoes.
My simple male logic, which clearly made no sense of the previous two sentences, decided to stare aimlessly about Kohl’s department store in the hopes of finding something pretty, shiny, or in lingerie. Finding only two of the three in the shoe department, I decided to return my attention to Mom, who had just finished fitting another pair of purple (the box said plum) shoes. She jumped off the bench and strode down the aisle again.
“How do you like them?” she asked.
“Um . . .” I always attempt honesty first. This seldom works but typically results in several funny awkward moments. “Actually I like them, better than those pink ones with the bland gray color.”
“Really?” Mom says in that tone which tells me I had just failed that test. “Because I really like the pink ones. They’re less noticeable.”
“But the purple ones have more room right?”
“Purple? What purple ones?”
“Plum,” I sigh. “The . . . plum shoes you have on.”
“Oh, yeah. They are more comfortable, but a little more expensive.”
“So what? Just buy them,” I advise. This is typical bored-guy logic at work here, the “if you like it, let’s get it and go” perspective that reminds her irritatingly of her husband.
“He’s always rushing me,” she would say and then wonder: “Why can’t you be more patient like when you were little?”
When I was growing up, I would love to go shopping with Mom. We would first visit the bookstore, where Mom would buy me some story or comic and then enter one of the major department stores to shop for the younger kids. There I would find myself a nice hidden nook, a nest among the children’s clothes to read in peace. Mom would spend hours looking at bibs, tiny plaid shorts, and one-piece overhauls with mooing cows, checking sale prices and muttering to herself how big all her children had become. Rarely did she shop for herself. Yet, when she did I would inevitably find myself a corner, gather several fashionable dresses and petite slacks discarded or dropped from their racks and nestle myself for a few hours of silent study.
Mom of course loved this. Not only did she have a shopping buddy who was willing to go with her, but this shopping buddy did not mind one bit whether she spent all day analyzing outfits and arguing prices. Nowadays however as I’ve grown in size some, escaping to a corner beneath women’s apparel to read, hoarding pillows of female apparel would earn me several bizarre stares and perhaps a police-escorted invitation to leave the store. Pervert!
Thus, I am left sitting in the shoe department, my book burning a hole in my pocket and watching my mother parade down the aisles in an assorted variety of Skittle-flavored running shoes. The truly ironic thing is that my style of shopping mimics Mom’s . . . that is, in the proper venue. Later this week, as we prepare for a long roadtrip south to Florida, she will come ask for a ride to the bookstore and a quick scan of their magazine department. The sound of her impatient “Are you done reading yet?” will be music to my ears.
The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow