Sally Cronin was kind enough to let me blog sit and publish this post on her site, Smorgasbard today. I had difficulty reposting so I am doing it today. Thanks, Sally.
Mother prides herself on being frugal, but loves nice things. Should she win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes today and be guaranteed five-thousand dollars every week for life, it wouldn’t change anything. She’d live in the same house and drive the same car because, “I don’t have the money right now.” She’s been the same size and worn the same styles since she married, so she never has to buy anything that’s not on clearance. In fact, when shopping, she’s not above placing the size eight she has her eye on among the size eighteens and then coming back to see if it’s marked down a few weeks later. You’d think God was looking out for her. “Would you look at this? They’ve marked it down. I don’t mind paying fifteen dollars, but there’s no way it’s worth eighty-five to me.’
The one great exception is her pursuit of the perfect shoe. Domestic abuse early in her marriage messed up Mother’s ability to easily find shoes on the bargain rack. Just so you know, she’s the one who committed the abuse, though Daddy never even noticed. As a young man, Daddy worked shift work and put off going to bed as long as possible. He felt sleeping was a waste of time when there were better things to do. As a result, when he finally hit the bed, he slept like the dead. One night, he rolled over on Mother’s long hair and she couldn’t wake him. She poked, elbowed, and yelled, to no effect. In desperation, she kicked him till he finally roused enough for her to get her hair loose. In agony, she got up and soaked the toe till it calmed enough for her to sleep. The next morning, it was bruised and so swollen she couldn’t even get her shoe on. This was back when doctors made house calls. Daddy fetched Dr. Pike who diagnosed the big toe broken, pushed the battered toe back in place, and wrapped it to her second toe to act as a splint. She hobbled around in just a sock till the swelling went down enough to endure a shoe. Afterwards, she required a half size larger and needed more supportive shoes, which are of course, more expensive.
As a result, Mother fixated on good shoes. Should she find her heart’s desire, particularly at a marked-down price, a terrible dilemma ensues. Torn between her desire, for that particular pair of shoes, the battle of shoe desire versus frugality begins. It’s a trial to witness. “Do I really need these shoes? I don’t have any nice (brown, blue, white, green, yellow) ones. I won’t ever find any more this color, style, price, etc. again. You know I have a hard time finding shoes that feel good after I hurt my toe.”
She always makes it sound like the toe incident was an Act of God, not an attack of my poor, innocent father, so I feel obligated to remind her. “You know, you wouldn’t have all this trouble if you hadn’t kicked my poor daddy.” Just as I hoped it would, this remark always catches the attention of store clerks and nearby shoppers, who no doubt envision her kicking a poor, incapacitated invalid, not the snoring behemoth she kicked seventy years ago. They do seem a bit disappointed when they turn to stare and see only a tiny eighty-nine-year-old lady standing there, clutching a pair of red shoes.
After they’ve all had a good look, I remind her. “Those do look good. You’d probably enjoy them. If you change your mind, we can bring them back.”
“You don’t think it would be foolish of me to get these? I don’t really have the money right now, but I have a hard time finding good shoes. These were originally $169 and they’re marked down to $59. That’s more than I want to spend, but I’m not going to find them any cheaper? What do you think?”
“I think you won’t get a better deal unless you throw a brick through a window, so get them if you want them. Besides, if they were just a dollar, they’d be more than you want to spend.” She is just warming up. We both know she’s getting the shoes, but there’s still work to do.
“I know. I have a couple of new pairs I haven’t worn yet, but blah, blah, blah. Do you really think I should get them? I still have two-hundred dollars left from the money I got for Christmas.” This was in April. She’d rake in a fresh bankroll for her birthday in May, but this discussion is going to go on a while, anyway. I was almost, but not quite, ready to kick in on the shoes to get out of the store. She asked two customers and a clerk for opinions. They were divided. That didn’t help a bit!
“Mother, if you want them, get them. You don’t have to consider anyone but yourself. I’m going to look around while you make up your mind.” I head for the hills, returning with the hope she’s reached a decision. When I came back, she was in line with two shoeboxes, three customers behind her. She wasn’t budging.
“Look, I found the same shoe in yellow. Yellow is my favorite color. Which ones do you think I should get?” At least she’s made the decision to purchase something. There’s no way she was leaving that store without shoes.
I took a huge gamble. “I think you should get the red. You can wear them with more.”
Clearly offended, she made for the counter. “I’m getting the yellow! I might never find yellow shoes again.” She still looked torn about the red ones.
At this point things could still go horribly wrong. I know Mother wants me to recommend one over the other, but I don’t know which. It’s very important that I validate her reasoning on this matter. My psychic abilities failed me. Impulsively, I tossed caution to the wind, knowing the wrong answer could put us back at square one. “Get them both. You wear lots of red AND yellow. You may never find any more just that color and you do need shoes! When we get through here, let’s go to the Chinese Buffet for lunch. My treat!”
Thank Goodness, it worked. “I think I will.” She happily pulled out her money and made her purchase. Everyone in the store clapped. Mother hadn’t been that happy since her last shoe purchase.
Though we had eaten at a Chinese Buffet, she charmed the staff into a carry-out container and free coffee. “I have all this left on my plate and just hate to waste it.” Her shoe-high lasted all the way home all through the time I helped her in with her two shoeboxes, fanny pack, (which she usually wears instead of strapping on) and carry-out from lunch. Just as I started my car, she ran out to get her cell-phone she’d tucked in the glove box. I hadn’t been home ten minutes when my phone rang. “I’m so glad I got these shoes. I looked in my closet and I don’t have a single pair either color. I do have some tomato red ones and a yellow-greenish pair, but I didn’t have any in exactly these colors. I really needed these.”