Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back-to-school shopping.

I can remember back-to-school shopping with my mom like it was yesterday...

The summer before second grade when almost everything I picked out was fluorescent (the hot pink dress with neon green sleeves and buttons was my pick for the first day of school...and class pictures). Fourth grade was all about over sized shirts and stretch pants. Fifth grade included a mortifying trip down the training bra aisle (I practiced wearing it that summer with the long grey wig I picked up at our neighbor's garage sale). Seventh grade = vests. Ninth grade began my obsession with color-coordinated socks and rayon shirts. Senior year I bought all my new school clothes at the thrift store.

I remember standing in line at Ross as my mom showed me how to do side bends, "just in case my new jeans got a little tight in the waist." (How'd she know? I was totally sucking it in when I showed her!)

And getting to wear a back-to-school outfit to the Ice Capades with my best friend even though the first day of school was still several weeks away. (THE BEST!)

I recall choices that carried me through the school year and beyond - the skinny black pants with a side zipper that I LOVED and wore and wore and wore until I took a spill on the playground and split the butt (2nd grade).

And choices that were more aspirational than anything I would have actually worn to school - the ankle length prairie skirt (peach and white floral) and white lace shirt that I buttoned all the way up and accessorized with a cameo brooch (5th grade...I can only imagine how lovely it must have looked with my wig).

There was the year I flew to Seattle by myself to visit my aunt and cousin and got to go shopping at stores I had only read about in Seventeen (Banana Republic, United Colors of Benneton, Nordstrom...).

And the many "mini-vacations" my parents took us on to San Francisco where we'd get to shop at the Esprit outlet on our way to a Giant's game.

Back-to-school shopping was never just about getting clothes for school. It was an event in and of itself. A day to think about the coming year and who you wanted to be. It honestly felt like that trip to Mervyn's could completely shape my future. And even though I generally regretted most of my purchases the moment I stepped foot on the bus ("Neon is out and Guess Jeans are in? Darn..."), for a few short weeks I felt like I had it all under control. Because this year was going to be THE year. And I had just the wardrobe to make it happen.

With the final countdown to Kindergarten underway, I couldn't help but think that a back-to-school shopping trip was exactly what I Liam needed. So what if he's a boy who has to wear standard school attire? Back-to-school shopping is not about the clothes; it's about the experience.

And that's exactly how I sold it to him.

"You mean we could go on a date to a restaurant and I could get french fries and Sprite?"


"And it will be just you and me?"


"And we get to go to Old Navy afterwards?"

"Mmmhmm. Does that sound like something you want to do?"

"Pshh-yeah," he talks like a teenager now. "I totally want to do that!"

It was a date! First, as promised, we went to Red Robin for lunch where he was all, "Why do they call it Red Robin? Don't they know robins are brown with red chests? If they wanted to call it a bird name, they should have used Cardinal. That would have made a lot more sense."


When we got our table, I made a point to take the seat facing the restaurant so he wouldn't be distracted by all the flair (plus, I hate having my back to a room). What I failed to notice was the TV mounted to the wall directly above my head. Moments into our date he had completely zoned out.

I turned around to see what could possibly be more interesting than my recollections of Kindergarten and back-to-school shopping trips. Looney Toons on mute. Of course.

He was rapt. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could pry his eyes off that TV. Even when I called him out on it (several times...), all he could do was laugh. "I know...I'm trying...it's just...that guy keeps falling!"

I craned my neck to see who it was. "Oh, yeah. That's Coyote."

"It's so crazy," he said laughing. "That guy keeps coming up with these plans to trick that big bird but nothing works. He just keeps falling off that rock!"

If you've never watched someone watch the Road Runner for the first time, it's pure comedy. So I let it go. It was supposed to be his special day, after all. If he wanted to spend it trying to figure out what was wrong with Wile E Coyote, he could be my guest. Besides, the waitress had already complemented us on his manners and polite behavior. We could afford to coast for a bit.

After lunch, Liam wanted to play at the playground for a while before we went to Old Navy (there's a park in the middle of the shopping center). And since he's way into Super Mario Brothers at the moment, he was Toad and I was Princess Peach. (All this means is that he talks in a funny voice and refers to me as "Peach". I can do that.)

The actual shopping part of our shopping trip was next. It was...easy. There was a big display of polo shirts and khakis so all we had to do was choose the colors we liked and find the right size. But because this was a special trip, I made Liam try everything on. It was a first, but he was a natural.

Maybe try the sweater now...and stop licking the wall.



Yeah, you're right about the shorts. Total cholo on Easter...

After Old Navy he was done. "Can't we just try one more store while we're out here? Please?"

"No," he said. "I'm ready to go."

"But..." How could I explain to him the importance of this trip? The life-changing possibilities of the right shoes or a perfectly fitted polo? That after this there would be nothing standing between him and the first day of school. I mean, he couldn't go to Kindergarten yet. We were just getting started! And yet...

I sighed and accepted the inevitable. "Are you sure, buddy?"

"Yep," he said confidently. "I'm ready."

That makes one of us...


Anonymous said...

Cutest story ever!

Anonymous said...

Cutest story ever!

Cora White said...

LOL so welcome to boys.
We all have those bad fashion choices. I know many choices that will live in infamy. Orange eye shadow?