Some of you may have missed the Kohl’s bra sale a couple of months back.
Being my first, it was memorable. It also proved to be another instance in which being my now 90-year-old mother’s occasional shopping companion and chauffeur has expanded my world view.
Having worked security on countless shopping expeditions with my wife over the decades, I knew enough to bring along a relatively thick magazine I subscribe to so I could pass the time with my eyes averted.
During past shopping adventures, I sometimes have found time to read the entire magazine, fill out the card stapled to the fold, mail it in, and get the first renewal issue delivered to me in the store before we hit the checkout aisle. The one time I forgot to take a magazine I found my mind beginning to grasp the vastness of universal time-space as I experienced what seemed to be the passing of a few eternities. Somehow the notion of a universe 15 billion years old seemed something I might comprehend.
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As my mother and I approached the bra department, I looked for an inconspicuous position to take up and caught a break. Displays of juicers had been set up in the aisle, and the boxes were just the right height for me to use as a place for my magazine. I had a good view across a vast area, though when I dropped my magazine and was rising from picking it up, I got a strange sideways view of the department and briefly thought I was looking over a display of earmuffs for pinheads with unusually large ears.
I half suspect that someone in the camera room at store security was watching at the same time and saying to no one in particular: “I told ‘em not to put those juicers there. Those boxes are like hunting blinds in deer season. We might was well hand out bright orange vests to the guys who stand there.”
As most people know, only polar bears in the melting north are a rarer find than a salesperson in a store these days, so I was buoyed when a 20ish woman approached when my mother raised her hand seeking help. As a shopping gofer who has bird-dogged and tracked down clerks before, I was glad to see she was dressed in black, a color easier to spot between the sales racks.
On the other hand, she was relatively short, an attribute she shares with my wife, whom I’ve often searched for in stores while wondering if she’d disappeared to enter the spousal relocation program. Too often, I’ve found her at the customer relations department where she has produced a receipt for me and asked aggressively about store return policies.
As I suspected, after spending a few minutes in the fitting room, my mother called out my name and I was forced to leave my safe haven by the juicers and walk through the amber waves of bras. My blood pressure was rising because the rise in her voice made me suspect she was seeking some information from me, which made me wonder just what kind of information about bras she thought I could provide. I was all the more nervous by then because she had earlier disclosed to me that the size she was looking for was more connected with the circumference of her body than her topographical features.
Although innocently offered, it was the perfect answer to the question: How do you make your 63-year-old son squirm?
I was relieved to learn she was only looking for the 20ish woman in the black outfit, whom I discovered with another female sales clerk engaged in conversation with a tall, good-looking young male employee standing beside a large gray plastic cart used for hauling.
The woman in black returned to my mother with me and provided the sought-after information. She was gone, however, by the time things got down and dirty and my mother homed in on the size and style she was looking for. I was surprised to learn that despite being a low-tech person, she uses wireless bras. I was less surprised to learn that, at her age, she has trouble searching through the lower racks.
Thus did I find myself in a position I had not imagined: kneeling in an aisle of a department store riffling through bras to find the right size. Still, with the knowledge that I was likely out of sight, I felt a great rush of pride when I found the Holy Grail of wireless bras, the one my mother was looking for.
The size was right. The style was right. The coupon made the price, well, close enough to right. My deep feeling of affirmation, which had nearly overcome the awkwardness I had been drowning in since I left the safety of the juicers, lasted as long as it took my mom to announce: “I was hoping to find two.”
Feeling as pureed as a breakfast smoothie fresh out of a juicer, the only solace I had was that my mother did not (and does not now) possess a phone with which she could have taken a picture of me kneeling among the bras and post it on Facebook with the joyful words “Shopping with Tom!!!!!!!”
The truth is, I kind of like shopping with my Mom.
There’s no one else I’d rather help shop for bras.