So last week Fashion Friday went on hiatus while I was traveling and didn’t have a guest contributor lined up. I went to Los Angeles for a writing conference, which was super fun. I met some very interesting writers — I always love making those connections — and had a really positive response from the agents I pitched my novel to. Plus I got to have dinner with some dear friends who live out there. All in all, a good trip.
One thing I really like about going to L.A. is that it’s a town I can go shopping in. Now, of course I can go shopping at home if I want to. The problem, though, is that my kids are at home. I love my kids, but taking them shopping is…not ideal. And leaving them at home to get away for a few hours by myself is just a recipe for guilt and trauma.
Take this example from the beginning of last summer…
Our school gets out about a week earlier than most of the schools in our city. And because I like to give my kids a break now and then, we wait on the summer camps so they have a week off between camp and each school term. This means that the first week of summer is usually all about the kids and me. Together, all day, every day. It’s fun and nice to have so much free time and togetherness, but after a couple of days, things become…strained.
I get tired of telling them they can’t watch movies or play video games all day, and they get tired of my reminding them of this. We try to do Fun Activities Away From Home, but there’s only so much running around and exploring the city these little ones can take, day after day. It can be challenging to strike the right balance. And then of course I don’t want to take them places where they’re going to be doing summer camps already (like the museums, etc.).
Anyway, last summer, that first week of vacation was a hot mess. In addition to having trouble finding things to do that particular week, the weather was unusually hot outside, and I had a big writing deadline that I wasn’t sure I would make. By Friday I was so stressed out I couldn’t even decompress from the school year, let alone from the first week of break.
There was a pair of amazing fuchsia velvet heels I was stalking online at Forever 21. (I know, every part of that sentence ought to feel wrong, shouldn’t it? Yet it doesn’t. These are incredible shoes.) I wasn’t going to buy shoes online without going to the store to try them on first. There just happens to be a Forever 21 store in the mall not too far from my neighborhood. So when Aaron got home from work Friday afternoon, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind if I went to the mall for an hour or so after dinner. You know, by myself. Please. Pretty please.
He had been unloading the dishwasher and stopped halfway between the plate rack and the cabinet. He looked at me funny. “To the mall?” I could feel him thinking, But you never go to the mall.
I explained about the shoes. Another quizzical look — though I’m not sure why, since my unusual shoe obsession has been well documented. And then, “Forever 21? Seriously?”
Okay, this was a fair question.
I sighed. “I just really want to go spend an hour basking in the nostalgic 1980s fantasia that is that store.” I paused. “And then, of course, there are the really tall pink shoes.”
The kids made a loud crashing sound somewhere in the back of the house. I cringed. My face must have looked tense. I might have shuddered violently.
“Ah,” he said. “Time for yourself.” He smiled. “Okay, have fun.”
“It’s just that this whole week has been–”
He waved my guilt-ridden explanation away and started stacking dishes again. “Go. Enjoy yourself.”
After dinner, I could not leave the house fast enough. Aaron and the kids were doing typical fun Friday evening stuff in the living room. I said good-bye to my cheerful family, kisses and I-love-yous all around, and sprinted to my car, where I turned up the stereo loud enough to wake the dead.
There are a few things I hadn’t thought about before I decided to make this little field trip:
1. It was Friday evening. The first Friday evening of summer vacation. Most schools had just ended the term that day.
2. I was going to a better-than-decent — some would even say “nice” — mall in the suburbs.
3. This suburb in particular contains about a zillion teenagers.
4. Teenagers like to shop at Forever 21.
5. I think you can see where this is headed.
Long story short: I got the pink shoes. I also tried on about fifteen outfits, the vast majority of which were absolutely not coming home with me. The shop was…crowded. I didn’t get back home for an hour and a half.
When I arrived, cheerful and refreshed and the proud owner of shoes that were impractical at best and death-defying at worst, the kids were in bed but not asleep, and Aaron was sitting in the hall on the floor outside Tiny Beowulf’s bedroom, reading. He smiled when I came in.
“Have a nice time?” he asked.
“Yes, thank you!”
“Good. The kids would like you to stop by their bedrooms and tuck them in.”
I put my shopping bag and purse down and went in to say good-night. Both the kids looked pleasant and happy to see me, but what Aaron had failed to mention was that they’d given him some grief while I was gone…because I was gone.
Fairy Princess had written me a letter that read as follows:
I miss you and wish you would come home. I hope you bought me something. I really miss you. Why did you leave?
Love, your daughter–”
And she signed her name. Her full name. All four words of it, in case I had forgotten it in the hour and a half I’d been gone.
Tiny Beowulf was not, at that time, reading on his own yet or writing much at all, so instead he drew me a picture to indicate how he felt. He had walked up to Aaron tearfully while I was gone to hand it to him. It was a heart with a jagged line through it, to indicate it was broken. “When will Mommy be home??” he had wailed.
Aaron had sent him back to bed and then sat down in the hallway to read outside his bedroom door, until my return.
So the upshot of all of this? I don’t go out shopping much when I’m at home, and if I do, I feel wretched about it afterward. Not much fun. So when I go to L.A. once or twice a year — which is nearly always, because of the purpose of the trip and Aaron’s general aversion to L.A., without my family — I like to do a little shopping.
Last week, I did just that, and I found the most adorable shoes! I did not buy them. Not because they weren’t amazing and comfortable, but because I just didn’t have an outfit to go with them. The nice sales associate at Chinese Laundry took my picture wearing them so I could share them with you.
Perhaps I could be Marie Antoinette for Hallowe’en, and then these shoes would have a purpose in my life. Because, my goodness, I really kind of want them to!
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