My $10.63 Miracle Dress

I sure do miss my mama. She died a little over two years ago but she is with me every day of my life. I feel so incredibly blessed that she passed on to me so many talents and skills and was such a great example to me. A skilled artist herself, her gift flows through my hands each time I pic of my paintbrush. But if you asked her what her greatest talent was, she’d say, “Making something out of nothing and finding bargains.” She was not only great at shopping sales but did wonders on thrift store find and re-purposing things.

Luckily, she’s not one of those out-of-control souls who spends her life savings and hoards tons of stuff. She’s actually quite picky — very selective about what she’s willing to dedicate both money and space in her home or closet to. And for her it was never about acquiring a lot of things — rather she is into the whole shopping experience. For her, it’s all about “the Hunt.”

Shopping with her was an event not to be missed — I never gave up the chance to tag along.  However, preparation for a day with her did take some training.  Building up enough stamina to keep up with Mama took some effort. The day would start off with Mama walking into the first store, and in ten minutes, she’d have the whole place cased-out — top to bottom. She could tell you in great detail if there was anything of value or just plain cute in the store.  Not only that, but in that same ten minutes, she’d know the names and personal life story of three saleswomen and the medical history of at least two more. Nothing gets past her.  At this point, if Mama decided the store was worthy of a second look, the fun began. She’d systematically start to look through racks of clothes, shelves of shoes and mountains of gee-gaws, sorting and sifting to find the treasure buried deep in the bottom of the pile. Once unearthed, she’d ceremoniously presents the items to me and shove me into a dressing room.

I hate this part. With my mother having been the perfect size 4 and my sister having size-2 jeans look baggie on her, walking into a dressing room with armfuls of size 14 clothes is a cruel reminder that I did not get the skinny gene in the family.  Instead, I got a love for all things Chocolate. Nevertheless, with a big party, a gallery debut, or a personal appearance looming in the future, I forge ahead into the dreaded dressing room with 360 degree mirrors.

Now if you had ever needed an honest critic or a loyal cheer leader to support you in your journey to the dreaded dressing room, my mama would’ve been the girl for you. Before I can even get myself shimmied into an outfit, Mama has already put the nix on it and it taking the next item off the hanger. Trusting her eye is always the right thing to do. Once in a while I’d think I knew better and buy something without her nod of approval. Later when I saw a photo of myself wearing the item, I’d be mortified that I even thought I looked cute in the contraption.  Mama surely missed her calling as a personal stylist! Well, this one particular day I had settled on a darling outfit that Mama guaranteed me that I looked three sizes smaller and 10 years younger. This, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing. The dress just happens to be on sale. Originally $136 and is marked down to $89 — a price I was more than willing to pay for such a miracle!

Finally, with the decision made, and having previously spent a substantial amount of my retirement fund buying a bunch of Under Armour and Spanx to hold everything in so nothing giggled, I headed to the cash registers.

At this point I had several things in my favor. The only reason we were in this specific store on this particular day, was that Mama had already scoped out the newspapers and saw the 25%-off-everything-storewide ad. Also, it’s senior citizen day, so that’s another 10% off. Then she’d start to dig in her purse. Out comes her customer-appreciation coupon for 20% off and the store credit she had been carrying around for 4 months. When the sales-clerk announces the balanced owed is only $10.63 my mother stifled the grin that was ready to burst across her face.  As she pays the woman, she leans over to me and says, “Happy Birthday Baby Girl”. We head to the car, victorious with our treasure — “the hunt” a complete success.

As I got mama settled into the car for the drive home, the look of contentment on her face was second-to-none. She has turned two hours at Stein Mart into a peak life experience and is quite proud of herself.  Mission Accomplished.

Now, I have always professed that “things’ are not important, and that we are not the accumulation of all our stuff. I’ve always tried to remind myself that it’s what’s on the inside that matters the most. However, when I am getting ready to go some place special, and I’m feeling frumpy, I know I can always put on my little $10.63 dress that Mama bought and be assured that I look like a million bucks. And as every woman knows, that feeling is priceless.

Thanks Mama… for all the wisdom you gave me… for the life-skills you taught me… and for the unconditional love you continually pour out to me.  But most of all, thanks for passing on the light-hearted, fun loving, joyful wacky gene…truly, my greatest asset. ( I sure do miss you, Mama.)