This Southern girl made a lot of good memories shopping with Mom.
Sometimes I eavesdrop in fitting rooms—not intentionally, of course. It’s just that those are really close quarters, and if a conversation catches my attention, I can’t help but listen. I can always tell when the voices in question are coming from a mother and daughter shopping together. There’s an unmistakable chemistry between those two.
I’ve always held the opinion that, as mother-daughter activities go, it’s mighty tough to beat shopping. That’s why it makes me sad to hear tense voices in the fitting room. Maybe Baby Girl is “getting a little too big for her britches,” and Mama has reached her tipping point. Or perhaps Sissy is a free spirit and Mama’s trying to dress her like Queen Elizabeth. Either way, it’s all I can do not to bang on the door (or tug on the curtain) and scold them both: Do you have any idea what you’re missing?!!
Mama and I used to shop together a lot. And we loved every minute of it. Now that it’s harder for us to get together, and a bum knee makes a mall haul too taxing for her, we don’t get to plunder the merch together as much as we used to. I sorely miss it.
When I was a little girl, we’d spend a whole day in downtown Birmingham, shopping family-owned stores like Loveman’s, Pizitz, and Parisian. We’d have lunch in town and present our purchases to Daddy when we got home. (Here’s how lucky I am: Daddy likes to shop even more than we do and never cared one bit what we spent. Mama has always been the frugal shopper among us.)
Later, we followed our favorite stores to suburban malls as I graduated from Buster Brown shoes and plaid jumpers to bell bottoms and the atrocious platform shoes of the seventies. Our mall of choice had a swanky cafeteria—that would be a contradiction anyplace but in the South—where the servers who took your tray at the end of the line all wore spiffy red jackets. As memory serves, Mama would order liver and onions, I would have fried chicken, and we both treated ourselves to the strawberry pie.
Once I got old enough for us to commiserate in the fitting room, I can only imagine how many women eavesdropped on us—and tried to stifle laughter. The stuff they must’ve heard us say: Lord have mercy, when did this happen to me? Why have they gone to making all the clothes in this stretchy fabric that shows EVERYTHING? They just don’t make clothes for us. Let’s go get us a good cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.
The best part about shopping with my mother—and the source of some of my best memories with Mom—is that she has always had a gift for sensing the difference between something I just wanted and something I really needed. I don’t mean “need” as in to-prevent-deprivation. I mean she can just tell when I need something to give me confidence or lift my spirits: That first pair of shoes with just a little heel (and later the taupe Liz Claiborne pumps that were to die for). My first Oscar de la Renta perfume and Estee Lauder makeup. Easter dresses. College clothes. Something special for my bridal tea at the church.
Now that I’m a “woman of a certain age,” I take the same pleasure in trying to do that for her, even though most of our mother-daughter shopping sprees happen online now. But internet retail therapy has its special joys, too. When I told Mama I could order her entire Christmas list online and have it delivered to her door, she was as happy as that time we bought each other completely impractical red patent purses on an impulse. And you can’t put a price tag on that.
WATCH: Jenna Bush—The Joys Of A Southern Mom
Enjoy more, worry less, let kids be kids, and cut yourself some slack—we're right there with you, Jenna. Sounds like great advice for any mom.