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©August 2001

Carol Jane Remsburg



A Glimpse Into Hell








That is Back-to-School Shopping.  Let no one ever tell you any different because that's indeed what it is.  How do I know this?  I'm a veteran of these wars.  I've gone every year since my nieces were young and long before I became a mother myself.  My own sister hid in the back of her closet whimpering at the approach of every mid-August. 


For years I was pretty much game for the challenge.  She had three daughters to outfit within a tight budget.  "No problem," sayeth the Queen of Checks.  Being the overbearing sort of auntie that I am, I could get them sized and measured and bought for.  They were wonderful for me and all was done in under three hours.  I never confessed to my sister that it took me weeks to recover from the shock.  I considered it an annual gift of love to her.  This year it was payback time.


Now a mother of an "almost eleven year old," things have changed a bit.  I'm aging at the speed of light.  That comes with motherhood I believe and it only compounds it when you venture into parenthood late in the game.  It's my turn to want to whimper in the back of the closet, but I couldn't.  However, I did take reinforcements with me—my niece Samantha—who takes absolutely zero "stuff" from my daughter.


It seemed like only yesterday that Sammi had hit that stage, that stage some of us ladies remember with horror.  It's the stage where you don't fit into anything.  Little girls sizes are too small and adult sizes present you in the same light as hip-waders.


With the shirts, the shoes, the sweaters, and the dresses we had no problems.  We knew we wouldn't—but it was the JEANS that wrought so much angst.  Thus we began with the worst. 


We thought about trying the Gap, the Limited, JC Penney's, Hecht's, and Sears as all were handy in the mall.  However, there was only ONE store there that housed a mega variety of jeans in all shapes, sizes, makes, and models.  That was Boscov's.  With a shudder and a quiet whimper of my own we crept in.  The display was enough to boggle the mind and so were the people; mothers with daughters, mothers with sons, and then entire clans of families. 


And we began.  We selected a few in what I thought might be Erin's size and sent Sammi into the dressing room with her.  I stood outside with another armload ready for her to try out.  I had brought Samantha with me for good reason.  I had done this last year on my own and almost didn't survive it.  There had been screams, tears, and dire threats exchanged.  Even the most jaded store clerks had taken notice.  And while security didn't intervene, they lurked close by likely ready to call either social services or the bomb squad.  If they had been sure just which one was required I'm positive they would have acted upon it.  They'd never encountered such a scene and the shock left them too paralyzed to act.


It is certainly by the grace of God that Erin still lives and breathes.  My shame, my patience, and my frustration had been tested beyond what any parent ought to endure.  Afterwards, I'm not sure how I recovered.  The following weeks were a blur of slow recovery.  That tic was gone by Thanksgiving, and my halted speech pattern returned to normal by Christmas.


But this year, it was oh, so different.  Sammi is more than a match for Erin who simply adores her cousin.  When that big, bad, bulldog chin of Erin's comes to the fore, Sammi's becomes a bigger and badder.  Ever wonder why they call the mommy dogs a certain name?  I can tell you that Samantha will be a wonderful mother.  Perhaps by then, Erin will be old enough to return the favor.


After what seemed hours in the darkest pits, five new pairs of jeans & khaki's were purchased.  I won't tell you how my budget wailed, but it's still shrieking.  Then we bought the sweaters, the shirts, the new undies, the training bras, the socks, the shoes, and all the school supplies.


We managed it all for this ONE kid in under four hours—most dealing with those jeans.  Then I took them both to Red Lobster for an early dinner and to escape the heat.


Throughout it all, I was witness to countless other family squabbles that turned into outright fights in the middle of the department stores.  The shell-shocked clerks remained nonplussed; they've seen it all before.  It happens every year for them and I believe they get a booster vaccination for it during the Christmas holidays.


Men believe women love to shop.  This is a myth.  And while I know many that do, I hate it.  I go with an agenda and a list.  I march in, grab what I need, and then flee as though the Devil was nipping at my heels.  This makes any shopping trip a horror.  Whether it's back-to-school, birthday (coming in September—obvious cringing!), or Christmas or whatever, shopping is hard.  I want value for my money and that's always where Erin and I will cross paths.  She still hasn't learned that yet.  But that first job come age fourteen for her ought to sort that out quickly enough.  I know it did for me.


Oh God, birthday shopping within two weeks, and remember there are only 135 shopping days before Christmas!  Eek!


Can you say online shopping?  Works for everything but clothes!  Be sure to tip your UPS man/woman this upcoming holiday season.


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