I hate department stores. I don’t use the word “hate” lightly. The empty vastness of material nothingness; the bright lights spotlighting our greed; the vapid noise of elevator music and high-pitched meaningless laughter.
Thus, when my daughter suggests I go with her and my 11-year-old granddaughter for a girls’ day of shopping, I respond immediately:
“Of course. I’d love to.”
Every fall the three of us go on this mall-journey. Sophie’s birthday is in July, and my gift to her is an afternoon at the mall to select a new school outfit. She has no idea how much of a sacrifice I make for her in the name of grandmotherly love.
She finds the “perfect fall sweater” at one of those beastly pre-teen/teen stores and I pay for it with cash. The young woman at the register owes me $2.50 in return, but I can see her trying to struggle how to break my $20 bill. I raise my eyes to heaven, asking for strength. She finally reaches for the calculator close at hand and then hands me my change.
One of the dollar bills has inked writing on the top of each side and I’m about to return it to her (I like my bills clean and not tattered) but I read the message on the George Washington side quickly.
“You go through life wondering what it’s all about…”
Yes, yes, I do as well as millions of other inhabitants of this weird Earth.
I place the bill in my pocket while handing the bagged sweater to my granddaughter. She blushes and thanks me so sweetly I wonder how I can possibly begrudge our time here in this hellhole of humanity.
As we walk out of the store toward my daughter’s favorite shop full of household wares (ugh, I groan to myself), I pull out the dollar and read the rest of the message on the other side:
“…but at the end of the day it’s all about family.”
I’m the one who blushes now. I have just been chastised by my angels, and they are so right. How lucky am I to be here with my glorious daughter and beauteous granddaughter, celebrating our gift of togetherness?
I shout out: “After you buy your candles and throw pillows, let’s go to the trinket store with all the earrings and bracelets!”
My daughter and granddaughter both turn to me incredulous, mouths open.
I just laugh and hug them as if my life depends on it.