Shopping With and Without My Mother

May 5, 2016 in Family life

My mother and I used to go shopping in a typical mother-daughter sort of way. But, if you ever saw us weaving in and out of the stores, we looked anything but typical.

Neither of us ever dressed the part of avid shopper. My mom was usually wearing a pair of old Levis and sneakers, and I too was in jeans, along with a weathered fleece jacket. Instead of sneakers, I always wore a pair of slip-on shoes to make it easier – and faster — to try on clothes. Our shopping attire would sometimes work against us though, because two sloppy looking shoppers never garnered much attention at the high-end shops. But, we had fun surprising the salespeople when we’d plop down a bunch of merchandise at the register. My mom always labeled these days as our contribution to “restore the economy.”

We always strategized before our shopping trips. First, we planned out which location we’d conquer. Sometimes we’d head to the outlet stores an hour north of my house. Other times, we’d stay more local and go to the mall or visit one of the neighboring towns that had a high density of clothing and shoe stores. Then, we sensibly timed our outing so that I’d be back in time to pick up my kids from school.

My mother and I always looked forward to our shopping sprees, but inevitably the spree became more about what we could buy me, rather than both of us buying items together. Sure, my mother would purchase a few things for herself or at least try to, but I could tell she found it way more enjoyable to help select and subsequently pay for my clothes, possibly because I was a stay-at-home mom who solely relied on her husband’s income. My mother and father both worked full-time and they always kept separate bank accounts. I knew my mother found it difficult to think of me so dependent on my husband, even though he hardly ever gave me a hard time about spending too much money.

In some ways, it was odd that my mother and I enjoyed shopping together so much because we had very different tastes in clothing styles. I did my best to keep up with trends, while my mother never ventured far from her affinity for Eileen Fisher, aka baggy chic. We’d try to help each other pick out clothes we thought the other would like, but this rarely worked. I’d make frowny faces at the frilly shirts she’d suggest for me and in turn, she’d think I was joking if I even pointed to a pair of Steve Madden shoes for her. Still, we’d try on clothes and ask each other for opinions, knowing full well it may not have appealed to one another.

Our favorite part of the day was always lunch. If we were at the mall or the outlets, there was never any question we were going to dine at Nathans for a hot dog and fries. We didn’t need or want a fancy lunch. For us, it was all about taking the time to talk about anything and everything, but also resting our feet before going back for round two in the stores.

We both knew the shopping was less about the actual shopping and much more about spending the day together. The clothes we bought were simply a bonus.

But then my mother became ill. Open heart surgery. Then cancer. Enduring two major surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, my mother rallied like a warrior. And we still managed to keep our shopping dates, although sometimes we shopped at a slower pace. I suppose we both needed to continue this tradition to prove that she would be okay. And she was, for a few years. Until she wasn’t. Our shopping days came to an end when my mother passed away at the age of 75.

The first time I went shopping for clothes without her, I entered a store in which we had once bought dresses together. I quickly scanned the racks, but couldn’t bring myself to buy anything without her. It wasn’t nearly as much fun. And I missed her, a lot.

A few months later, I took my son to a basketball skills clinic, which happened to be very close to the outlets my mom and I used to frequent. With three hours to kill, I had no choice but to walk around the familiar stores. I still disliked shopping without my mother, but my clothes were looking ratty and outdated and I couldn’t not shop forever. So, I followed the same route we always did and visited all our favorite stores.

I can’t recall if I bought anything, but I felt off-balance while there. She was missing — my beloved shopping partner — and I wondered if I’d ever enjoy shopping for clothes again. I kept checking my watch, wanting the time to pass so I could leave and pick up my son from his clinic.

Eventually, I surrendered to hunger and wandered toward the food court. I knew I couldn’t leave without eating at Nathans. I ate a hot dog and fries to honor my mother, but it didn’t taste nearly as good as it used to.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Judi May 5, 2016 at 10:49 am

This is wonderful Emily and I’m sure speaks to a lot of women our age. It certainly does to me. Hope we can catch up soon xo Judi

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ohboymom May 5, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Thanks Judi – yes, I’m sure you can relate. Thanks for reading and yes, hope to see you soon! xo

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marjorie weschler May 5, 2016 at 11:30 am

This is a beautiful tribute to your Mom, Emily. I know how much you miss her. Happy Mother’s Day

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ohboymom May 5, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Thanks Margie, I appreciate it! Happy Mother’s Day to you too…

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Anna R Palmer May 5, 2016 at 11:58 am

This is so sweet and sad. After my father died I always had mixed feelings about returning to spots we had visited together. A piece of me was always disappointed that he wasn’t there waiting. As if he had been there all the time. Finally I realized that he was there all the time. Inside if not out.
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ohboymom May 5, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Thanks so much for your reply. It helps to think of her being there with me while I shop…

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Janine Huldie May 5, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Aw, Emily so many hugs and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to not have my mother here for shopping with or more. Thinking of you and truly beautiful article about your relationship with your mom.

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ohboymom May 6, 2016 at 10:51 am

Thanks Janine, I appreciate your thoughts…

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Liv May 5, 2016 at 9:41 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss. What a difficult thing to move on from, the loss of a parent.
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JULIE B BURTON May 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Emily,
My heart aches for you in reading this. My mom loves to shop and I don’t. But shopping connects us for sure. It is definitely a mother/daughter “thing”. I am thinking about you as we approach Mother’s Day. I hope you can find comfort in the beautiful memories you have of your mom. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be though…
Big hugs!

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ohboymom May 9, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Thanks Julie – I appreciate it. We had a lot going on for Mother’s Day this year (sports, etc), so it was good to be distracted from the day I guess. And, I got a few extra hugs from Little Dude so that made it a good day after all. :)

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Christine Carter May 11, 2016 at 9:20 am

Emily, you are such a gifted writer. This story, so beautifully detailed is just one more example of that truth. I pictured your shopping trips, how you two looked and laughed and walked alongside each other smiling and connecting in such a deep and natural way. I envisioned your planning together which day to go and how you two ate your hot dogs and so easily soaked in those moments together. What a dream, what a gift, what memories you must cherish.

Then I see you at the outlets, wandering the stores feeling empty and uninterested, like the desire had died along with your precious counterpart- yet, you carried on, with a mission to honor her life and yours-pushing through your footing with strength and solitude. I can only imagine how many experiences follow this pattern now.

I felt it all. Thank you for allowing us into your heart, and into this precious part of your relationship with your beautiful mom.
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ohboymom May 11, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Chris, reading your comment made sharing this memory all worth it for me. Thank you for writing such sweet thoughts. You seriously brought me to tears — in a good way — that you felt and understood what this ritual was all about for me. xoxo

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Heidi May 30, 2016 at 9:29 am

I am sorry for the difficult loss of your Mom <3 I envy the relationship because I never have had that with my own Mother. It sounds Amazing the shopping days you had with her. What a great bunch of memories to have. Sincerely love you blog <3 Our children are about the same age. Except my youngest is a girl. I just dipped my toe into this blogging world and you my dear, are a great inspiration. <3

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ohboymom June 7, 2016 at 9:26 am

Thanks so much for your kind words and welcome to the blogging world!

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