While pondering mother-daughter relationships, I recalled a story I wrote 40 years ago, after going bedspread shopping with my mom. Sure enough, since Mother saved and filed everything I ever wrote, I was able to find the original hand-written essay in less than ten minutes. What I could not find were many photos of the two of us together. The photo above was taken just before my first year of teaching, when Mother came to help me set up my classroom.
* * * * *
Shopping is one of life’s most exasperating experiences.
My mother and I, for example, behave affably most of the time. Put us in a clothing or furniture store, however, and we become angered siamese cats, hissing and spitting over wide differences of opinion.
As we entered Bedspread Haven, a little bell jingled in welcome, announcing our arrival.
“Oh, look at this one!” we squealed simultaneously, rushing to opposite sides of the display.
Again in unison, our voices colored with horror.
“Oh you don’t want that,” Mother faltered. “It lacks something…”
“Well, I can be much more specific: yours is pink!”
My tone of voice left no question in the mind of the approaching salesperson as to my sentiments concerning the color.
“May I help you ladies?” he inquired.
I looked at him pityingly. He seemed like such a nice young man.
Mother’s look of annoyance at her daughter’s lack of taste smoothed into a smile.
“We’re looking for a bedspread,” she said.
“Genius,” I muttered under my breath. “Pure genius…”
Ignoring my sarcasm, Mother proceeded to describe, in full detail, our redecorating plans and activities of the previous ten months.
Everything he never wanted to know and more, I thought. He was still smiling, I noticed. What a nice young man.
“Cheri?” Mother cut into my thoughts.
“Yeah … er … yes?” I’d obviously missed my conversation cue.
“What colors are you interested in?” she prompted me.
Chartreuse and black, I mused. How would that effect the nice young man’s smile?
“Um…blue and aqua. No pink!”
Mother gave me a quick glare, then flashed on her smile once again.
“Could you show us what you have in these colors?”
“Certainly. Follow me.”
The salesman turned and walked toward the back of the store, loosening his collar as he went.
“Hey, this is pretty neat!” I pointed to a bright blue bundle.
“I supposed…” Mother stopped and laboriously flipped through the rack of spreads. “Now this one…”
A faint moan escaped my lips. I stumbled, clutched the post of a near-by bed for support. A cough racked my chest.
“Honestly, Cheri, that’s quite enough. It’s more of a mauve or cranberry, you know!” She gave an exasperated sigh.
The salesman waited until Mother’s smile was back in pale before leading us to a few bedspreads he had chosen. I detected a slight flushing at his temples; somehow, his smile seemed less spontaneous, more forced.
“You mentioned aqua. I thought perhaps…”
“I’ll take it!” I yelled, unfolding the thick quilt from its hanger. It was a pale sea foam green, with a faint hint of blue detectable. Yellow roses wove through brown branches. How perfect! I pulled it wide to get the full impact of its beauty. How utterly…
“Aaaaaarrrrrrgggghhh!” I screeched, collapsing to the floor.
“Really, Miss, they’re so small you can hardly see them.” The young man backed away and swallowed nervously.
“Cheri, three tiny burgundy flowers, really…” Mother gave the man a reassuring smile.
“This is a pink store!” I declared in a voice of condemnation, starting for the door.
Stuttering quick apologies and appreciations, Mother left the salesman and strode after me. Opening the door, I glanced back and read the all-too-familiar Just-Wait-Until-We-Get-Into-The-Car look on her face.
As the little bell jingled in farewell, I glanced ruefully at the sign plastered to the window:
“Have a nice day!”
“Nice day” and shopping, I reflected darkly, are incompatible terms.
I’d love to hear your perspective!
What’s a fun or foolish (or both!) memory you have of spending time with your mother or a mother figure? How true do you find the old cliche “like mother, like daughter”?