“When we go school shopping, I want to get new sneakers,” Layla says. “My pink ones are getting too small.”
My heart starts racing. “We can get new ones,” I tell her. But I probably sound like a zombie, like I have a million times in the last seven months. I’m thinking about my mom and I’m somewhere else. I can see her in the chair in the children’s shoe department at Von Maur last August. It was less than two months before her terminal Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis and she’d been having extreme back pain for a long time. She had been talking about taking Layla, Piper, and me back to school shopping for weeks but she wasn’t sure she could handle all the walking.
I suggested we get a wheelchair and she said, “Well, we’ll see.”
“Why? Why don’t we just get a wheelchair? A lot of people use a wheelchair when they’re in pain,” I tried to reason.
She shrugged and answered with an embarrassed smile, “People will think I’m an old lady.”
“You are an old lady,” I said and we both laughed.
“We’ll see,” she said. I knew she wouldn’t be shopping in a wheelchair.
My mom loved to take my kids shopping at Von Maur once or twice a year and let them pick out whatever ridiculous crap their greedy little hearts desired. I would get so irritated sometimes at the unreasonable purchases—a cheaply made water balloon pump for twenty five dollars or a forty dollar pink poodle purse that was fit for a mini streetwalker. Whatever caught their eyes, like little raccoons, the more sparkle the better. My mom loved to indulge her babies.
In August, when my mom was feeling up to the shopping trip, we went to Westroads Mall. We’d already been shopping for a while when we arrived at the children’s shoe department in Von Maur. My mom could tell I was tired and that the girls were getting on my nerves.
“Why don’t you go ahead of us and check out the clothes while we look at shoes,” she suggested and that sounded perfect to me.
I perused the girls’ clothing racks for a few minutes then headed back to the shoes. My mom was resting in a chair with a girl seated on either side of her. They were each waiting for a pair in their size. When the clerk brought them out I rolled my eyes. Layla was trying on light blue high top Sketcher Twinkle Toes and Piper had chosen a knee high pair of Sketchers. Sequins all over, black with hot pink details. My mom smirked. They were awful and, of course, they were expensive.
It breaks my heart every time they grow out of something my mom bought for them. Time keeps passing and I can’t stop it. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a ship that’s pulling away from her.
This week I was sorting through outgrown clothes in the attic. One shirt in particular caught my eye. A teal three-quarter sleeve t-shirt. On the front there was a busy black and silver print of a butterfly and it was covered with glitter that came off in the washing machine and bedazzled the entire load. Plus it had a short vest which was reversible–teal and black zebra print on one side and silver sequins on the other.
I smiled and ran my finger along the sequins. I pictured my mom at the store, holding it. I folded it gently and put it in a box with all the other things which used to be a gaudy waste of money and now they are priceless to me.