Column by Kay Frances
My mom was a bargain hunter before bargain hunting was cool. Every year, she took her four offspring to a department store in the The Big City to outfit us for the school year. This store had eight floors and the merchandise got more expensive with each higher floor.
We never left the basement.
Clothes would be strewn in messy piles on tables where previous bargain hunters had picked up and discarded the items they weren’t interested in. This means we got the castoffs. The low of the low.
One year — to my brother’s horror — Mom bought him two pairs of pants. One was orange and the other was red. Both were so bright, you practically needed to look at them through cardboard with a tiny hole in it, like looking at the eclipse of the sun. This was at a time when the other boys all wore blue jeans; the key word being “blue.” Fifth grade boys aren’t known for wanting to stand out with bizarre fashion choices. But, the pants were on sale (shock!) and he knew better than to argue with Mom.
We all went into the new school year with seven new pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, one new pair of shoes and four outfits. Yes, you read correctly. Four. This never made sense to me since there were five days in the school week. Simple math will show you that we had to repeat an outfit. But, Mom Logic was to be accepted, not necessarily understood.
Come Christmas Day, our socks and underwear were replaced with new ones. Of course, they counted toward our gift total. Just what every kid wants. We could hardly wait to take them to school for “Show and Tell.” Thankfully, they didn’t try to pass them off as being from Santa or we would’ve wondered just how bad we had been that year. They were our “From Mom and Dad” gifts.
At times throughout the year, Mom would augment our wardrobes with items from the grocery store. I remember big wire bins with Keds canvas tennis shoes in them. (Looking back, they were probably knock-offs.) You had to fish through the bin and find your size. Each pair was tied together, so when you tried them on, you’d have to hop around in them to see how they were going to feel.
I railed against my mother for years, becoming a total clothes horse. I have always had a ridiculous amount of clothes that I got tired of long before I ever wore them out. I can’t say that I’ve gone full circle. I still love clothes, but I’ve come to see the value in being frugal. These days, I find myself getting rid of more clothes than I bring in. Mom would be proud.
And, despite having a whole closet full of clothes, I find myself favoring the same four pairs of yoga pants and the same four sweatshirts. I guess I’m my mom’s daughter after all.