It was an interminable shopping excursion—a brutally exhausting back-to-school event that involved far too many fitting rooms with the suggestion of ventilation and, as one might expect, legions upon legions of petulant children, ones who were clearly more interested in setting off a medley of motion detectors and in being swallowed up by great forests of clothing racks than in trying on the armloads of garmentage that spoke to their parents unremittingly. Oddly enough, my dear progeny, a soon-to-be fifth grader completely thrilled with the prospect of buying that-which-is-tight-and-trendy, was uncharacteristically well-mannered throughout the entire ordeal. Go figure.
Naturally, I invited said fact to the forefront of my mind throughout the day so that I might be inspired to forge ahead despite the laborious nature of the task at hand. Translation: I needed something to psyche myself up in order to gather yet another armload of gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-surely-die Hello Kitty apparel, which I would then haul to the dressing room ad nauseam.
But I would do well to remember that there were lots of things that made the experience wholly tolerable—aside from the fact that my child actually wanted to be there. Firstly, my Mom not only orchestrated every minute detail of the aforementioned marathon event (to include clipping coupons, perusing last-minute newspaper advertisements and considering the alignment of the planets so that obscene savings would, indeed, be assured), she also convinced me to take just one daughter at a time—which was a slightly brilliant move. Okay, it was pure genius.
Admittedly, I can’t even take credit for the method employed by my brood to determine who earned the privilege of shopping first. True to form, Thing One and Thing Two settled the matter in a classic rock-paper-scissors fashion, the latter having emerged victorious. I merely served as a witness and as the official hander-outer of the consolation prize—the promise of an equally interminable joyous shopping excursion to the Land of Skinny Jeans and Profoundly Sarcastic T-Shirts, followed shortly thereafter by an epic quest for Converse All-Stars. Pepto Bismol-pink, of course.
The day was memorable if nothing else. Strangely enough, it became even more memorable, punctuated by the discovery of that which rendered me unable to move or speak, except for the tiny gasp that I’m fairly certain I emitted as I stood there, perfectly transfixed by what I saw. Truth be told, my daughter initially made the horrifying discovery and felt compelled to share it with me.
“Mom! Look at THIS!” she shrieked as if a mannequin had been juggling live kittens in the shoe department—which would have been a disturbing yet fascinating sight to behold. “You have to see this! There’s a backpack here for ONE HUNDRED TWENTY BUCKS!” Of course, I made her repeat the aforementioned string of heinousness as if she had uttered an obscenity and I needed to be sure it was, in reality, as impossibly foul as I had understood it to be. And it was.
To be clear, the rogue book bag in question was on sale, but that was beside the point. I couldn’t get past the egregious nature of its original ticketed price. The beauty of shock value had, indeed, been demonstrated as I gawked at the tag in stunned silence. Given to curiosity, I then studied it up close, tugging at its kryptonite-inspired zippers, spinning its endearing little wheels and peering within a multitude of hidden pouches and expandable compartments—frantically searching for that which justified its hideous expense.
Needless to say, I didn’t find it; but I fully expected to unearth a clone of the most remarkable teacher on the planet—one who lived inside that smallish space 24/7, crawling out on command. A pint-sized instructor capable of conveying a deep understanding of the Pythagorean theorem to my dog (never mind less-than-cooperative children). An educator extraordinaire, brimming with enough enthusiasm and patience for six people (and a collapsible Smart Board with tons of pretty markers, too).
Color me delusional, yet again (but not stupid enough to pay $120 for a damn backpack).
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (thoroughly consumed by back-to-school madness). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.
Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel