As the first of two consecutive days off, today should have been a good day—but then I decided to go to the mall with my grandmother. Having been up since 5:00am, I can’t say that I was thinking too clearly. Instead, I was zooming through my To Do list (Revisions to my editor at Dance Teacher Magazine? Check! Weekly gchat with my friend in Lyon? Check! Self-loathing about the failure of my new skin care products, the progress of my first book and the fact that I’m a Sales Associate? Check!). All things considered, I was feeling pretty productive so when my mom suggested I take a break and come to mall, I said, “Sure. Why not?”
Why not? Here’s why not. I’m saving up to spend two weeks in London this summer (during which time I’ll be presenting my first real academic paper at the annual conference of the Society for Dance History Scholars) so I’m on something of an austerity budget right now. Shopping on an austerity budget is just depressing. And shopping with my grandmother is… interesting, shall we say?
As such, I dropped off my watch at a jewelry repair shop and headed to New York and Company, determined to concentrate on the essentials. There, I found a pair of fashionably distressed skinny jeans on clearance.
“They’re ripped,” my grandmother informed me.
“I know,” I replied. “They’re supposed to be.” I was feeling quite good about my purchase—it’s high time I embrace the “skinny” look!—but on second thought, the fact that they were on clearance probably means skinny jeans are on their way out. Oh well.
Ignoring my grandmother’s shock and evident horror at the Victoria’s Secret window display, I headed back to the jewelry repair shop. My watch has been in need of a new battery for about a month now but I’ve been putting it off… it’s not as if my life requires great punctuality these days.
As I reached into my wallet the woman behind the counter gave me a Look— the sort of look that I generally reserve for customers of the Stupid Sally variety. “Your watch is actually solar powered,” she informed me. “As it says on the back, ‘No battery change required.’ Just stick it under a lamp for a few days and you’ll be good to go.”
Sure enough, the face had “Pulsar Solar” inscribed in crisp silver script, plain as day. So much for my top notch liberal arts education. You’d think they could have taught me to read somewhere along the way.
Eventually, my grandmother, my mom and I decided to have lunch at Bahama Breeze. My grandmother would have preferred Friendly’s but you can’t drink at Friendly’s and drinking is generally a pre-requisite for multi-generational events in the Richter household.
My mother and I ordered pomegranate raspberry merlot sangrias to my grandmother’s root beer. Then, we sat around saying things like, “That’s a very lovely root beer bottle” and “A solar powered watch… what will they think of next?”
When the waitress came to put my grandmother’s remaining chicken wings into a take out box, things got really interesting.
Waitress: Would you like extra sauce for those?
Abuela: (grins, but makes no response)
Waitress: I can bring you a little container if you like.
Abuela: (continues to grin but still makes no response—at least nothing audible)
Mom: Ma! Do you want extra sauce or not?
Abuela: (Emphatic grin. And before you accuse me of being insensitive towards my 80-something year old grandmother, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her hearing. She has selective hearing actually, which she regularly employs in our house given that we’re all a bunch of liberals and she—well, to put it plainly, she’s not. Because I do actually love my grandmother, however, despite perceived evidence to the contrary, I shall say nothing more on the subject).
Taking control of the situation I smiled at the waitress and said, “I believe that translates to a yes.” After all, having been abroad and all, I’m good with translating. I might as well employ my hard-earned skills when I have the chance seeing as there’s little opportunity to do so at The Shop.
When the sauce arrived, however, my grandmother decided she didn’t want it. “It doesn’t fit in the box with my chicken,” she lamented sadly. “Do you want to take it home with you?”
“No,” my mother replied. We already have a sizable collection of sauce, ketchup packets, mustard, honey and various Chinese food accoutrements from my grandmother’s visits. “Ask the waitress for a bag.”
The bag was requested and produced but my grandmother decided it was too big. “Actually, I have a bag in the car,” she suddenly remembered. “I can put it in there with my bible.” At the thought of chicken wings and barbeque sauce sloshing around with my grandmother’s bible, I had to stifle numerous snide remarks and I managed, but only on account of it having just being Mother’s Day.
My mother, for her part, was torn between leaving the Bahama Breeze bag behind (to be thrown away) and taking it with us (to be recycled). In the end, her environmental consciousness and my grandmother’s Depression era propensity for hoarding won out. We left with the box of chicken, the container of extra sauce and the bag.
“Put it in the trunk with the other bags,” my mother instructed. No sooner had I added it to her collection of eco-friendly totes than my grandmother announced. “There isn’t enough room with my bible. I’ll just leave the sauce on the floor of the car, okay?”
“No!” my mother and I chimed in unison. The only thing worse than a container of unwanted sauce is a container of unwanted sauce left on the floor of the car. You just know it’s going to heave itself onto the carpet when you’re not looking. And so the Bahama Breeze bag was rescued from the trunk, presented to my grandmother and promptly filled with her bible bag, her bible, her box of chicken and her extra sauce.
It has taken me the rest of the afternoon to recover.