Come Wednesday, Mom rounded Becky and me up and took us to the mall. Mom had made plans for Saturday and they were the kind of plans that required new bathing suits for the three of us. Apparently, I wasn’t doing a good enough job introducing Becky to the neighbors so Mom was going to do it all at once with a big party in the backyard. Personally, I was just fine with my existing swim trunks, but Mom wasn’t about to have me wearing year old fashion in the pool. She was ashamed enough I still wore jeans from the last summer.
Becky wasn’t too impressed with our local mall. I guess Sears and Montgomery Ward didn’t qualify as department stores in her book, though I still have no idea why. Mom shopped at Sears for everything. I reckon most things in our house came from the shelves of Sears and the few things that didn’t probably came from my grandparents. Now I was smart enough not to ever utter such thoughts in the presence of my Mom. Becky, on the other hand, well she hadn’t been around us long enough right then.
I was in the changing room when the fireworks started. Mom had picked out a pair of trunks for me that must have been something awful by the look on Becky’s face and the single finger she kept inserting into her mouth. Having been around my folks long enough, all my life to that point, I was well aware that if there was going to be an argument the only safe place was on Mom’s side. That’s to say one look from Mom was all it took to get me speeding on my way into the changing room to try the trunks on. Course I could still hear every word between Becky and Mom who argued right outside.
Becky chomped her gum extra loud while she talked. “Do you want him to get beat up?”
“There is nothing wrong with those trunks. They’re cute,” Mom said.
“If you’re sixty,” Becky said. “Powder blue isn’t a man’s color.”
“You’re uncle has a very nice suit in that color,” Mom said.
Becky said, “Yeah and I bet he hasn’t worn it anytime in the last decade.”
“It’s not as if I’m asking you to wear them,” Mom said.
Becky said, “No, you just want me to be seen with my cousin wearing them.”
“Well I didn’t see you picking out anything better,” Mom said.
“We’re in Sears,” Becky said. I could practically see her arms flailing around at the surroundings. “The choices are like catastrophe, disaster, or holocaust. There is no better in here.”
“I’m sorry our shopping mall doesn’t live up to your California standards,” Mom said and even I could tell she wasn’t sorry in the slightest, “but you’re just going to have to make do.”
Becky said, “You’re not seriously expecting me to find something in here?”
“You’re going to need a swimsuit unless you brought one with you,” Mom said.
“I’d go swimming in my underwear before I’d be caught dead putting on one of those granny suits,” Becky said.
“I own several of those ‘granny’ suits young lady,” Mom said.
“Auntie, let me help you,” Becky said. Her tone was so patronizing, I’m surprised the next sound wasn’t that of Mom’s palm against her cheek. “There must be a real shop in the mall somewhere. I’m certain we can do better.”
I don’t know why, but I chose that moment to step out of the changing room and show off my swim trunks. They did the job, covering my butt and junk, and that’s about as far as I went in caring. Mom however, well I gather she suddenly got Becky’s point cause she started some finger pointing of her own. Only with Mom it wasn’t toward the back of her throat but rather toward the changing room.
“You’re not getting those,” Mom said.
I said, “Okay.”
Becky said, “Thank God.”
I changed back into my clothes and we left Sears for the greater mall. It might have been my first time as all I’d ever shopped in before was the Montgomery Ward and Sears and I’d been to movie theater a time or two as well. There were so many little shops I was pretty much lost within five minutes and without Mom and Becky, I’d probably have ended up at a lost child booth paging them to come get me. Well, maybe not, but it was more than a little dizzying running from shop to shop with two women tugging me along.
Becky finally found the perfect place. It was all about swimwear from the looks of it. The front displays were eerily gold flecked mannequins wearing bikinis and Speedo’s. Mom wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as Becky and I didn’t fancy myself wearing briefs to the pool, but we followed my cousin inside and let her guide us around the racks, until Mom decided she was going to look elsewhere for herself and left us to find what we could find. I had a sneaking feeling I should have left with Mom, but as things turned out, I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Diana Lancaster just happened to work in that store.