“We’ll start at Boscov’s, honey. They have a sale going, and I have a coupon!”
I’m driving because my sister drives like an Italian national—red lights and stop signs are merely suggestions.
“Fran, didn’t you see that stop sign?”
“What do you mean? I slowed down. Nothing’s coming. Don’t be so critical.”
So, in an effort to avoid “being critical,” I’m driving.
Boscov’s is at the Steamtown Mall, which like most malls is on life support. But Boscov’s is open, orderly, and brightly lit. We head for Petite Better Dresses. My sister is just under 5 feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds. We sort through the size 2’s. Almost immediately, I see a sleeveless lime green silk sheath with a short, cream-colored jacket. I can’t believe our luck, but Fran doesn’t like the appliques on the collar. “They don’t lie flat.”
There’s a great little black dress with a lace bodice and also a cap-sleeved floral print, mostly green on a white background. “No” to the black; “Maybe” to the floral print.
“Shall we try on the print?”
“We are not trying on dresses, Diane. I’m trying on dresses. Let’s see what else is here.”
She looks through suits and career wear. “Who buys this stuff?”
Back to dresses. “Okay, I’ll try the print.”
I think it looks great. Fran likes it too, but it’s $79.99. Her 20% off coupons brings the price down to $63.99. Not bad, but she thinks she can do better. Anyway, she’s not crazy about the length. “It’s too long, and I don’t want to hem it.”
Back to the car and on to the Viewmont Mall, which is an outdoor shopping center like a Main Street when cities had main street shops. There’s a J.C. Penney’s and a Macy’s.
A dress at Penney’s reminds her of her honeymoon “going away” outfit and makes her teary-eyed, but otherwise the selection doesn’t suit her. At Macy’s she tries on three dresses none of which has a hint of green, all of which fit beautifully, but, unfortunately, are all priced between $125 and $175. “They look nice, but they’re too dear. Let’s have lunch.”
Did I mention Fran is thrifty? The Teppenyaki Grill and Supreme Buffet checks off all her must haves: lunch buffet for $7.49; all you can eat; four buffet tables; dessert and coffee or tea included. Never mind that she always gets the same thing: a spring roll, General Tso’s chicken, and a helping of Buddha’s Delight (all vegetables). “No dessert. I baked a pie for us when we get back. Lemon Meringue. Isn’t that your favorite?” It is!
We laugh and eat and reconsider the dresses. I reminisce about going shopping for clothes when I did my student teaching, reminding Fran that she altered the jacket of a suit I loved that didn’t quite fit right in the shoulders. “Did I do that?” She doesn’t think she could repeat that feat again, and she certainly isn’t interested in altering any dress she might buy today!
We decide to head back down to Boscov’s. And she tries on the sheath. It looks stunning, and the appliqued collar lies flat after all. She smiles at her reflection. She likes the sale tag best. Her coupon brings the price to $62.49. She counts out three 20’s and three one dollar bills and patiently waits for her 51 cents in change.
Fran is 82 and my big sister. She is frugal, kind, patient, and she is my cheerleader-in-chief. When we walk to the car, I drape the dress over my arm so I can open the door for her. Before she steps in, I give her a quick hug. “Don’t worry, honey. I plan to be around for a long time yet.”
How does she always know what I’m thinking?