Mom and Pop Shop

Contrary to my DNA and my chromosomal structure, I absolutely hate to shop. The idea of spending even fifteen minutes of my life in a mall causes me to break out in hives, a cold sweat, a hot sweat; I’ll sneeze, I’ll cough, or I’ll even throw a tantrum if the aforementioned behaviors fail to foil the shopping trip. I like going to the grocery store, because I like to cook. And there’s nothing better than a trip to a hardware store, especially if it features a healthy garden supply department. But general “shopping”, as in, “Let’s all of us girls get together and go shopping! Then we can go to lunch!” is the most detestable of all activities. I would rather stick needles in my eyes. Or have a pap smear.

Now that I have made my point about how much I loathe shopping, let me tell you why. It may be because my mum (if you’re from western PA, you have a mum) would drag my sister and me shopping every single Saturday between September and May (summer Saturdays were spent at the beach, and that’s another blog altogether). Not only would we shop on Saturdays, we would shop on Monday nights, because apparently, that was Susan’s best time to find a bargain? Whatever she wanted on Saturday but ran out of money for was on sale Monday night? I don’t know. I do know that even if the merchandise shopped for were meant for Becky and me, I couldn’t have cared less. Most of the time it was Mum trying on clothes and Becky and me trying to amuse ourselves by hiding among the racks of Ship and Shore sportswear or over in lingerie trying on huge bras over our little bitty…bodies.

My mum’s favorite store “in town”—that town being Meadville—was Trask’s, which soon morphed into Carlisle’s. I believe I have correctly placed the apostrophes in the proper places, for each of these department stores were probably first owned by someone named Trask or Carlisle, who knows or cares. What I do know is that my mum spent more time and money in Trask’s/Carlisle’s in her short life as a wife and mum than she ever did in a grocery store or hardware store. Which is why the whole shopping gene must have skipped a generation.

My straight up hatred of shopping could stem, too, from the fact that I hate to part with money. I like having things, but the act of passing over a credit card, writing a check, or saying goodbye to the few dead presidents who might be lurking in my wallet has a rather unsettling effect upon me. I can’t help but think there might be something that I will really need and that I won’t be able to get because of a foolish decision to buy purple eye shadow or a new pair of sunglasses. So, yes, while I hate to shop, I am sometimes forced to.

Today, I needed a gift for a little friend who just made her First Communion. It was raining. I had a lot of work to do. And it was raining. The last thing I wanted to do was to go shopping (I think I’ve made that abundantly clear), and I knew that neither the grocery store nor the hardware store carried First Communion items, so I settled the matter by taking my business to a little boutique right in my neighborhood.

And here’s where my utter revulsion for the whole shopping experience left my very being like a rabid monkey stubbornly clinging to my back. I love this little boutique. Delaney’s–its namesake the proprietress’ daughter– has just about everything one could ever want in a repository of charm, and while that in itself is important (especially if you need something charming), it’s the atmosphere and the personnel that make the shopping excursion an altogether lovely experience. The best part of Shopping at Delaney’s is that there is always someone willing to find for me just what I need. Every time. It’s a bit pricey (well, for me, because, you know, I hate to part with cash), but the personal attention at Delaney’s goes well beyond what I have ever found anywhere else. And, no, I don’t mean Wal-Mart; I mean other boutique-y places where most of the time the personnel treat me like I’m Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive (did I mention that I often shop wearing the same clothes I wear while picking up dog poop in the yard?) except that I’m neither Julia Roberts, nor am I a prostitute.

No one paid me to write this. It’s just that when I can essentially walk from my house into this little neighborhood emporium of sweetness in under ten minutes, find the perfect gift and have it gift-bagged in just about the coolest little bag imaginable, well that, my friends, is noteworthy. And when a small business owner in your neighborhood brings a little bling into your life without your having to wash your hair, put on makeup, and schlep into “town”, that small business owner deserves a shout out. Love you, Delaney’s!

Let me tell you: My child would never do THAT.

My children are perfect. They are perfectly children—well, now perfectly young adults. When I say that they are perfect, I am not extolling their virtuous deeds, their academic prowess, or their respectful and deferential treatment of their elders. I mean that they have or–in the case of my youngest–are in the process of making mistakes, pulling bone-head moves, and driving me certifiably insane.

When young couples are contemplating starting a family, their older friends need to stage an intervention. Not to dissuade them from procreating, but to educate them on the reality of being a parent. Once born, these types of instructions aren’t included when you bring baby (ies) home from the hospital. Shouldn’t there be a warning label stating, “Caution: Do not for one minute think that this kid is going to grow up without A) embarrassing you, B) causing your hair to fall out in great clumps, or C) initiating contact with a bail bondsman”?

When I was a younger mother, I would experience the galling and appalling behaviors of my eighth grade students and say to myself, “Good Lord, MY CHILD will NEVER do THAT! I feel sorry for his/her parents!” Someone should have slapped me at that point. I have learned the hard way that my children have done THAT. Anyone who says their kids would “never do THAT”–‘THAT’ being anything from dropping the f-bomb to building a bomb–had better eat their idiotic words toute suite, because I guarantee that your kids will do THAT. Whether or not you ever find out about THAT is another thing.

For the record, none of my three perfect children has ever built a bomb, nor have we ever sought the services of a bail bondsman. And, no, I’m not going to satisfy your curiosity by listing all of their shortcomings, their peccadillos, or all of the times I’ve been ready to put them up for adoption—our family subscribes to the ancient and not-so-often practiced principle of keeping what happens among family–well, among family. In short, you won’t see us on an episode of Dr. Phil anytime soon.
Have they disappointed me? Yes. Have they worried me to distraction? Oh, yes! Do they sometimes make decisions that cause me to wonder if I brought home the wrong babies from the hospital? Absolutely. But here’s my problem:

I grew up under rather unusual circumstances. My mother, a force to be reckoned with mom-wise, left this earth way too early at 40 (I was 11) leaving my brother, sister (both teenagers at the time), and me with a much older father. In retrospect, I think that my dad felt that we were such great kids and that our mom had done such a phenomenal job raising us so far that he really didn’t have to do much to mold his young breed any further. My brother was a saint, my sister’s charm and athleticism made up for the laundry list of crap that she pulled as a teenager, and I? Well let’s just say that I fell somewhere in between.

The problem I have with my own children is that I lack a template. Most moms of teenagers look back on their own upbringing and say, “WWMD?” Or even better, they call their own moms and say, “Did I pull this **** when I was 15?” When I wonder what my mom would do, I’m at a loss. So I do what I think she would do, and for the most part, that works.

Here’s the good news: My two oldest are in their first year of college. Their first year has been an unbelievable and, frankly, surprising success. I almost feel as if all of the prayers to the Blessed Mother, the hair pulling, the rendering of garments, and the tears and frustrations I’ve experienced with them have rewarded me with two young ladies who finally get it.

This bodes well for child number three, who, right now, is driving me berserk in an altogether different way. There is no shouting, no yelling, no eye rolling. His modus operandi is passivity. I can’t yell at him—he just looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. When I talk to him, my used-to-be mommy’s boy mumbles something inarticulate. He’s a totally different animal than my first two when it comes to the mother-child relationship.

My point is this: To all you young mothers and mothers of teenagers-to-be, do not for a moment say, “My child would NEVER do THAT.” Why? Those same mothers who used to say that to me have children who I have witnessed first-hand DOING THAT. Sometimes your children have told me about doing THAT. One thing I can say about my three—they usually tell me about THAT before I find out by any other means.

If I’ve learned anything from my first two, it is this: Stand your ground and know that this too shall pass.

Come on; go with me on this—I’ve got one more to get through high school. Hopefully, he, too, will take a page from his sisters’ playbook and shock and awe me and become the amazing young man that I know is lurking inside of that surly little teenager.