Sunday, January 28, 2018

Birthday Coupon

I can’t resist coupons, let alone special ones sent to me in honor of my birthday, from local stores I frequent all too often.  

Add a coupon to a clearance item with an additional percentage off this time of year, and wow, that’s a no-brainer purchase.

One afternoon when my birthday month (January) was fresh and new – let’s say January 2—I headed to the Promenade in Marlton, on the hunt to explore one of my favs, J. Jill, coupon in tow. 

A woman with a great big smile and a very pretty top I had seen in the window welcomed me into the store and asked me how my day was going so far.

Her warmth was a quick reminder of some of the reasons I like to shop there:  the sales people are very friendly, forthcoming with sale information, helpful and never pushy.   

After exchanging pleasantries, I went on my merry way to search for the lucky item(s) that would be coming home with me that night.

The woman with the huge smile passed me several times, commenting every few minutes.

“I have that…that looks nice with so many things…try this on!”  She was a little more outgoing than the other women I was used to, but I was fine with it and found her happy mood to be infectious:  now I was walking around with a smile too.        

At one point, confident we had become buds, I told her she looked very nice in her tunic.  She pointed to the section of the store where it was hanging.

She was clearly delighted with the compliment and told me she fell in love with the top at first sight because she knew it would flatter her figure.   

“I don’t know about you, but all my weight is in my back side and thighs,” she said…and then she proceeded to pull up her top to expose her midsection and most of her bra, to her cleavage.

I had a couple thoughts running through my mind:  1 - Is she expecting me to do the same thing, because that’s not happening and 2 - I’ve never seen anyone at J. Jill do this before, and I wonder what her co-workers feel about her sales technique.   

She then pointed to her belly, rubbing her hand up and down and then turning around to show me that her butt and legs were her “problem” areas.

When she finally pulled her tunic back down to where it belonged, I thought to myself she’s pretty bold, showing one of her customers up close and personal what she saw as her body’s flaws.  That is something I wouldn’t have done. 
I continued to collect more to try on from the clearance section while struggling to balance all my items, with hangers digging into my forearm and strangling my wrist, rendering me almost unable to look at other items on the rack.  A serious world problem, for sure.

Usually by now one of the sales people would ask if she could put my items in the dressing room, but my friend was nowhere to be seen and no one else was paying attention to me.   

A minute later there she was again, commenting on the sweater jacket I was reaching up to see.  Just as I started to respond, the jacket fell off the hanger and on to the floor.  I looked at her, she looked at me and then everything came crashing down.           

I could tell my voice was shaky and my tone desperate when I asked if she could help me, but it didn’t matter.  She kept walking. 

I felt abandoned. She had been so eager to disrobe in front of me but couldn’t find it in her heart to lend a hand?  So typical of relationships that fail!  But from a J. Jill salesperson? 

I started to ruminate about what was going on.  Did I offend her by asking for help?  I then felt ashamed that I asked, bordering on paranoid that I had done something wrong.    

About five minutes later, once I had cleaned up my mess on the floor, she came over to me and asked, “Do you think I work here?”  


I didn’t know what to say.  Didn’t SHE think she worked there?

I said “yes…you don’t?”

She said “No, I just like the clothes.”

OK…so she undressed in front of me…why?

I was still feeling rather embarrassed that I thought she was a J. Jill employee, when she was a shopper, just like me. 

I was relieved to go into the dressing room and shut the door, until I heard this:
“Some lady asked me for help because she couldn’t hold all her stuff and she thought I worked here.”      

Now wait just a minute.

I opened my door and saw her standing in the middle of the dressing room area with her arms crossed like a parent about to discipline her children.  

She looked right at me and asked why I thought she worked there, with all the other women in the dressing rooms looking at me too. The pressure was on.

I didn’t even know where to start, so I didn’t.  I closed the door, tried on my pile of clothes and chuckled inside when I heard someone else tell mystery woman she thought she worked there too.   

I left empty-handed; my coupon transformed into entertainment for the afternoon, far better than a sweater that would have gotten lost in my closet anyway.  

Sunday, January 7, 2018


On the third anniversary of my mom’s passing (January 10), I’m feeling quite…reflective.

First off, let me say my mom was an amazing woman:  a trailblazer, organizing unions when she was just in her 20s, mobilizing a neighborhood force—Ogontz Area Neighbors Association—in the 1960s in Philly, fighting segregation in the community and in the schools, acting on behalf of the voiceless for civil rights, youth programs, a local library and so much more. 

She was on the front lines, and behind the scenes too, always so serious and determined. 

Yet, she also reveled in the simple pleasures, often reminding me to take time to smell the flowers.

For her, that advice was as literal as it was figurative. She cherished the hours she spent working in her garden, tending to the rose bushes and petunias and lilies of the valley.    

I didn’t want to plant and weed and water like she wanted me to. I didn’t get what all the hoopla was about with flowers.  Sure, they were colorful and pretty, but they were time consuming and dangerous too.  As a kid, I was always getting pricked by the rose bushes on our lawn when we played tag or chased lightening bugs at night. 

In my teen years, I had more important things to do than take care of flowers, like talk on the phone endlessly with my friends about boys: who liked whom, who said what to whom, etc.  It never got old.  It made my mom crazy.  

Fast forward decades later…my mom was living alone in an apartment, and we all wanted her to be aware just how special we knew she was.

In an effort to do that, my sister and I would always bring her fresh flowers; sometimes, it was unclear whether she was happier to see me or the new bouquet (I’ll have to ask Sherrie if she felt that way too).

Upon replacing the wilted arrangement with the fresh bunch each time, I noted another downside of flowers—this time in a vase, not the ground—their shelf life is very short.  With few exceptions, they go from being vibrant and full of life to sad and on their way out in no time at all.

Well, I still don’t want to garden, and I continue to spend a lot of time talking to or texting with my friends about anything and everything, but one thing that changed when my mom passed away is my relationship with flowers. 

I now have one…and it’s a loving one, too. 
I even buy them for myself from time to time, based on what I would have picked for my mom on any given day.

I’m not sure if it’s the flowers themselves, or the reminder to take time to smell the flowers, that I find so compelling.

Either way, I was so touched recently when my daughter Allison told me she bought sunflowers for her home because she knew I loved them…because my mom—her Bubbe—loved them.

I am glad it didn’t take a lifetime for Allison to appreciate one of my mom’s—and now my—passions.