A pleasant day at the mall…or not. It wasn’t my fault, but I’ll be fair and let my dad tell his side of the story. After me.
Five years ago, on a rainy November afternoon, Dad took me to the Smithaven mall for a new coat. A thirteen year old girl has to look cool, especially if she wants to meet boys at the Poconos. I told my dad, “Just a blue ski jacket, nothing fancy, and definitely not pink or flowered.” Periwinkle Blue would be nice to match my eyes, just like the jacket on page 32 in my Seventeen Magazine. That was my plan: hunt for periwinkle and the cute guy on page 33.
“Wait a minute…I have to interrupt. You left out some important facts already.”
“Hey, it’s my turn. Oh alright…what?”
“That coat was an early Christmas present, and your mom and I were very generous.”
“Yah…I’ll give you that one. You were generous, just not patient.”
“And what’s this about “boy hunting?”
“Just kidding.” Anyway, I was careful to browse through only the best shops in the mall; why waste time in stores selling nerd attire? Sounds snobbish, but don’t forget, I was trying to be cool. In each store, I scanned the racks for the right blue. If pink dominated the girl section, I left. Sometimes I was distracted by wafts of McDonald’s French fries drifting by or heavy perfume; some stores spray enough perfume to fumigate the shop of all browsers.
Our day was fine until Dad decided to help me. He could have tagged along and been a silent, supporting presence. But, noooo…he had to help. Every millisecond, he pulled out another hideous coat: 1st grade plaid; grandma floral; purple checkerboard. Who could concentrate under those conditions? Dad didn’t understand that female shoppers need time and space.
After he pulled out the thousandth ugly coat, I turned and said, in my sweetest voice: “I know you’re trying to help, but I need to shop solo. Why don’t you wait over there, and I’ll come out when I’m ready.”
Suddenly, Dad clenched his teeth and grabbed my throat. Nearly killed me. I think he stopped himself because he works for Child Protective Services, and he could lose his job if he was accused of murdering his sweet daughter. That’s the truth.
“Okay, it’s my turn.”
Four years ago on a snowy December morning, I told Jenny we could go to the mall for one hour. One hour. We had to be back in time to drive her sister to baton twirling lessons. One hour was more than enough time. Or so I thought.
“Wait a second. You said we would go for at least one hour. I only took eighty minutes.”
“Two hours. Seemed like two days. Don’t roll your eyes.”
In the first store, I watched Jenny weave around the racks of coats as if she was taking in a bird’s eye view. She only held up one white coat with blue stripes on the arms to get a better look. Then she said, “These stink…let’s go.”
She couldn’t be like this in the next store. I was wrong. She gave a repeat performance. Barely glanced at anything. Maybe she needs some help. I pulled out a few nice-looking coats. She grunted and said, “Yuck.” So I kept hunting.
She did choose three “maybe” coats to have the sales lady hold while she shopped. It was progress even if the coats were at opposite ends of the mall. But my legs were tired from walking this marathon. I prayed Jenny would choose something; even lizard skin would look nice at this point.
After two hours of shopping, Jenny and I had circled to the first store we went in. She held up the very first coat she saw when we started. “Maybe this one. I just want to take another look at that coat in Macys.” Macys was at the other end.
That’s when I lost it. “You got me so angry, I almost clutched your throat. Shocked us both, I think.” For that second, I became the parents I send to jail. “Come here, Jen. I’m sorry for wanting to choke you.”
“And I’m sorry for driving you crazy. I love you…we just can’t shop together.”
We stare at the picture of our family at the Poconos and laugh.
“Did you think I looked like a marshmallow with blue frosting?”
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