Shopping with mom was always an adventure. She hated shopping from the time she was a little girl, she hated shopping. Her mother would take her to the store to buy a new bonnet and the sales people would oooh and aaah over the chubby baby. Mamie (mom’s mom) would set her up on the counter and mom would sweep all the bonnets onto the floor. She’d fuss as they tried to try things on her. From then on she was a terror at shopping.
On the other hand, she bought the best presents! Long before online shopping, there was mail order and mom rocked those catalogues: Montgomery Ward and Sears Christmas catalogues were the best! At holiday time she would get so many catalogues, the mailbox was overflowing every day. Russ Emenheiser, the postmaster of the local office, would have to put them aside and hand them off when mom went in to collect her mail. If the weather was bad or the number of catalogues was overwhelming, Russ would hand deliver. He and his family lived two doors down.
When I was in high school, dad traveled to his job in New Jersey and came home on weekends. When I was in college, mom and dad moved to New Jersey to be close to his work. That five-hour drive twice a week was killing him. They sublet an apartment just a few blocks from the beach until mom could find a better apartment and then eventually moved to a house. The number of catalogues continued to grow.
When dad died, mom sold the house and moved back to to my hometown. That and the new stores in town helped to decrease the volume of catalogues a little and got mom out and about in town.
One of the new stores was a place called Tadpole Crossing. They carried all sorts of items centered around teaching global conservation and the rain forest. They carried a lot of “frog” items. Since Dan was a collector of all things frog, Tadpole Crossing was a great place to buy him gifts — and useful tchotchkes (an oxymoron but true) like frog spoon rests or coffee mug.
Dan had a birthday coming up and mom decided to go to Tadpole Crossing for the gift. They would ship it to him wherever he was living at the time. All she had to do was find the item and pay for it.
Finding the item was not the issue. Mom found what she wanted and took it to the register while I wandered the store. I could hear mom and the clerk talking. Then I heard mom saying “That’s the best I can do!”
My head went up and I turned on my heel, heading for the register, calling Mother, what did you do?” It seems the the items she was buying came to something like $68.47 and mom was trying for as close to exact change as she could get. She gave the clerk $ $65.47. Instead of saying, “Ma’am, you need to give me another three dollars,” the woman just kept repeating the price. Mom thought she gave the clerk $70.47 and that the woman wanted exact dollars.
When I saw the issue, I looked at the poor confused clerk and bit my lip, trying not to laugh. I took the five-dollar bill from the clerk and exchanged it for a ten, took the two dollars and put them in mom’s wallet, patted mom on the shoulder and walked away.
That’s when mom realized what the clerk was trying to tell her and mom started to laugh. She had her head on the counter, laughing so hard that the tears started to flow. Mom was a very loud laugher! When she started pounding the counter, I walked back, took mom by the arm to help her walk, and headed for the door. I looked back and smiled at the clerk, who just stood there with her mouth open.