When I think of Mom, I think of shopping, and when I think of shopping, I think of Mom. They go hand in hand and remained faithful until her late eighties when her last credit card was snatched from her mighty grip.
My earliest memory involved them both. At two years old, I tagged along on my first bargain hunting adventure. Her left hand held mine as her right rummaged through clothes racks at a feverish pace. I did my best to keep up, did my best to focus, but it didn’t take long for me to tire and desire to retire from this “shopping thing.” My sore back and aching feet along with my hunger to explore the unfamiliar world in my midst took over. And a momentary motherly lapse presented the perfect opportunity for me to slip free.
After exploring the massive store on my own, I ventured outside. There I spotted a pedestrian bridge spanning Route 4’s six-lane highway. Thinking, “That looks like fun,” I headed straight for it. Determined to reach the top, I climbed up more steps that day than in my entire life. Maybe not an Olympic feat for most, but for a two-year-old, it was medal-worthy. I stopped in the middle to catch my breath and peered through the chain-link fence. The steady stream of cars and trucks racing below mesmerized me.
The sight of more stores and more adventures waiting on the other side beckoned me. So, I walked across and climbed down more steps than in my entire life. At the bottom, a blue pickup truck stopped in front of me. A nice-looking man rolled down his window and asked, “Are you lost?” I shrugged, “Guess so.” Then another first, a ride in a truck. He took me to a bar, sat me on the counter, and offered me a Coca-Cola®. The local barflies, intrigued by my dry behind the ears presence, approached. While I enjoyed my drink and made new friends, the man in the truck—an off-duty policeman—got on the phone. Soon after, my mom rushed in huffing and puffing. How he found her, I’ll never know, but I’m glad he did because for me this hanging around in a bar all day long quickly lost its charm.
A morning that began with great promise nearly ended with two-year-old me, lost, in a bar, drowning my sadness with the first of many drinks. But instead ended with my mom, who willingly—I’m not sure exactly how willingly but “willingly” is what I’ll swear to on a stack of Bibles—gave up her search for bargains to rescue her youngest child. So, a happy ending for us. The only loser that day was The Bergen Mall, but I’m sure Mom made up for it on her next visit. I’m also sure she left me at home.