Tag Archives: Shopping


Today, I used an umbrella for the first time. Sure, I used to play with them, but on sunny days. I was always afraid to practice opening them, because they ejected themselves widely, violently. They looked pretty arranged in a bucket, like flower buds, in stores or magazines, but were dangerously beautiful when paraded as cover. We should all be as lucky as an umbrella, pretty in the rain.

I have hidden under the umbrellas of other people who would share.

My father has a collection of golf umbrellas, one of which I bet I gave him. (If you’re interested, it’s the SUNY Brockport, green and gold extra large umbrella, and retails for $29.98. I’m sure he has guiltily donated it to a thrift store, though I’m not sure it’s still there.)

I’ve never been very pragmatic, which is why I never bought the $10 umbrella strategically placed at the entrance of superstores on soggy days. I’d rather let my hair slither and curl up.

My mother has a petite collection, suited to her size. All in neutrals. In fact, the tan umbrella that kept me dry this morning on my trek across campus used to be hers, and she gave it to my son so he could play with it. He took it home, and I carried it to campus today.

I hurried to class this morning, thanking my wellies for keeping my feet dry, and my umbrella for keeping my hair dry.  I was careful not to let the bat-wing like fabric of my umbrella scrape those around me.  I steadied my arm when the wind threatened to pick my umbrella and me up and hurl us into an enemy.

I reached the glass doors that beaded over with drops, and begged the little umbrella to close up while the rain pelted my head. Students walked by me, snapping their polka dotted or plaid umbrellas closed.  Still, I fought with my umbrella.  They whisked their umbrellas under arm and out of the rain.  Mine was a soggy mess like a cranky toddler.  It was my anxiety that made me feel like the students were laughing inside–or maybe they really were.

Either way, a mean person invented the superstition about not bringing an open umbrella indoors.

I’m not sure if I’ll use an umbrella next week, though I’m sure I’ll need it.
Oh, umbrella, the reason I’ll just walk a little faster in the rain.

discount club card

Just the other night, I stole the club card from my grandmother’s trailer.  What?  She doesn’t need it anymore.  It’s expired.  I love the color blue, the candid look on her face, that it captured exactly how she looked that random day in 1994.  My grandmother, who can no longer shop for herself, stood strong like a relic, prepared to buy surplus.

The trailer is empty now, after my aunts and mother (and their spouses) sifted through its contents.   There is a list of knick knacks (glass birds, angels, and a few ceramic hedge hogs) that my grandmother asked for at the assisted living center.  The rest, we preserved as family heirlooms, donated, or trashed.

It didn’t feel right to enter her home without her there, in the place where she had lived for twenty years and would never again enter to watch the news, or cook pot roast, or tend to her plants.  She had stepped out of the trailer for the last time, her timid feet relying heavily on her cane, and her bones trusting she’d be back.

It took at least a year for my aunts and uncles to decide to remove my grandparents from their home.  They all had the same sad eyes, tired lids, and invisible wounds from this.  The hard part remained: the removing of each item my grandparents had placed exactly where it lie.

It wasn’t all bad.  Some moments we were able to laugh, to sink into the way she lived: How she hid unopened birthday cards from 2010 under her mattress and twenty dollar bills in her hardcover detective novels.  My mother, my sister and I all stash our treasured items in the top drawers of our dressers, something my grandmother must have done in front of my mother years before.  Nested in her dresser were toy trains she’d bought for her grandchildren, costume jewelery, coasters, and yes, her discount club card.

There were tens of miniature screwdrivers with various heads, 17 pairs of scissors, three crochet needles, old records, numerous sets of free sample Christmas cards, and two heart-shaped wine-stoppers (favors from my wedding).  I imagine her tugging at these items while we take them.

Every year for Christmas I would get the same gift from my grandmother: knee-highs and Harlequin romance novels.  We found enough panty hose in that trailer to stuff stockings until their netting disintegrated.  She shopped for everything in bulk, as though she would continue living as long as these items needed use.

There were unlimited boxes of Kleenex stacked like buildings.  Tea sets.  Prayer books that were sent in plea for a donation.  My grandfather had ten bottles of Old Spice on his headboard.  There were clocks everywhere, signaling time spent, and time left.  My mother subconsciously collected alarm clocks, and it’s as though her collection spilled over to my grandmother’s trailer.  Then, plants, and plants, and plants.

Grandma was not there to see the life she accumulated.  In witness, my mother held her head close to my aunt and cried.

These were things my grandmother had already left.  These were things.  My grandmother had already left.