A shopping adventure with mom

My mother was in the middle of the department store yelling “I want something frumpy!”

Let me explain: She is in her (very early) 50s, and she is under the impression she is old. So she doesn’t care what she says, how she says it or where.

Anyway, the department store and the demand for frumpiness. She and my dad are going on a weekend trip for their 34th wedding anniversary, and I wanted to buy her a nice outfit. I knew going in it was going to be difficult. I consider myself conservative in dress, but, in comparison, I’m bright and flashy (mostly on account of wearing colors other than navy and black). She also insists on buying clothes at least one size too big, as she insists they are more comfortable.

“What do you want? Some slacks and a blouse?”

“I want something I can just pull over my head.”

My daughter, champion Grandmama wrangler, showed her a perfectly acceptable blouse in dark blue.

“No, that’s too tight,” my mother said.

It wasn’t tight, unless you compared it to a muumuu.

After suggesting several blouses and being shot down, I said, “I know what you don’t want – anything with color, buttons, embroidery, ruffles, ribbons or any adornment whatsoever, until the end of the world, amen, amen – but what do you want?”

“Something like this,” she said, motioning to the shirt she was wearing.

“Mom, you’re wearing a T-shirt.”


“This is (redacted department store) – they sell nice blouses. They only have T-shirts in the misses’ section, and all of them have color.”

“I want something I can just put on and go.”

“All clothes are designed to be put on and go. That’s why they are clothes. What do you want, a potato sack?”

There was a glint in her eye, like she was considering it.

“No. No potato sacks.”

“I don’t want something too young.”

“OK, I understand. That is why we are in the women’s wear section.”

“I don’t want something too old.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll know it when I see it.”

I thought it might be time to start praying for divine intervention. Or maybe for a bolt of lightning to strike me. Either would be acceptable.

“Oh, this is nice,” she said.

My hopes were almost immediately dashed, as it wasn’t nice, it was hideous. It looked like the love child of a Hawaiian shirt and a mock turtleneck. I weighed letting her buy something so ugly and escaping the store against letting my mother walk around in public dressed like that.

I was saved from making a deal with the devil by the Sassy Saint, who held up a striped tunic. “How about this?”

My mother liked it. I thought I might have heard a choir of angels singing.

We found a pair of slacks – black, with pockets, and do you have any idea how difficult it is to find functioning pockets in women’s slacks? – and retreated to the dressing room, where she tried the outfit on.

“Do you like it? Tell me if you like it. I am not buying something you don’t like,” I said.

She pulled out her reading glasses and studied her reflection in the mirror. “It’s good.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure. I know what I want.”

I bit my tongue. Really, when you think about it, I deserve a halo.

(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)