I’ve got my spending plan. I’ve put the money aside. But the month is two-thirds over and I haven’t bought anything.
What’s going on here?
Sure, fear of spending is a factor. But as I get closer to the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death on Sept. 26, I’ve realized there’s another thing holding me back. Shopping – at least the fun kind – was something I often did with my mom. In a project like this, where the whole point is to “treat” myself, my mom would have been my biggest cheerleader. She would have loved to shop with me, waited patiently while I tried on clothes, and crowed with delight if she saw me in something fantastic. She would've encouraged me to buy nice things, and I would've felt great about doing it because it was making her happy, too.
I’ve thought a lot today about my last shopping trip with my mom. (I'm not talking about that horrifically painful visit to the hospital gift shop right after we'd been told nothing more could be done. I was gutted and just wanted to go home, but she spent an hour in the tiny shop buying presents and cards for her grandkids, friends and neighbours. I remember thinking that she was taking so long because she knew it was literally the last time she would be shopping – her last chance to have much agency over her own choices or to express herself and her feelings through the things she bought for others.)
What I’m thinking of is the last time we went shopping for me, where we assumed our old mother-daughter roles.
It was the best kind of shopping trip, where I literally had no choice – I needed to buy an outfit. I was going to the Kentucky Derby (to interview this guy!) and I needed a lady-like day dress and above all, a hat. I picked her up and we went to Square One, the closest big mall to her house. At the Jacques Vert boutique at Bay, I found this little beauty.
On a nearby sale rack, I also found a sky blue blazer. It was much brighter than anything in my closet, but it felt like it would be right for a southern event like the Derby. Still, I didn't buy it because I wasn't sure if I needed it. Then, in an inexpensive store called Cleo, I found a white dress dotted with little flowers. Again, it was not my usual style – flowers? White? How cheerful and girlish. Still, it was on sale for about $60 and it would be a perfect match for that blazer I'd seen earlier. My mom sat down to rest while I dashed back to the Bay. She'd watch me try all these clothes and she had thought I looked beautiful in everything. She was my mom, so that's what she thought. Don't get me wrong – if she had hated something, I would've been able to tell, but her desire to find me beautiful was strong. I could feel her love and approval, and it made me think – correctly – that some of those feelings would be present with me whenever I wore this outfit.
Off I went to the Kentucky Derby. The first thing I did after getting dressed was send a photo to my mom so she could share the day with me.
Naturally, she said I looked beautiful.
That was about 18 months ago. I guess that even though this whole project is a way of honouring my mom’s wishes for me, there’s something a little joyless and empty about the prospect of shopping without her.