Dear God, I hate shopping! It’s frustrating, expensive and boring. Can you turn this nightmare around-this family reunion-
“Liz? Liz!” Mom’s annoyance sliced through my jumbled prayer. “Please try to pay attention!”
Murmurs of disapproval rippled through the throng of aunts and cousins. “When my Pamela turned thirteen, at least she had manners!” Aunt Joyce frowned from beneath oversized bangs.
“Now, Joyce. Liz has a lot on her mind…right?” Mom’s pointed look warned me to play along. “All right, is everyone sure they want to split up?”
Choruses assaulted my ears as I watched, surrounded, but detached from my extended family as they paired off in groups to explore the mall. Mom was dragged off by three cousins, the last one to go.
I was left standing awkwardly beside absent-minded, chatterbox Aunt Sam. She chattered on her cell phone, unaware that everyone had left. She snapped it shut a moment later, staring around in surprise. “Where’d everyone go?”
“They paired off.” I sighed, inwardly steeling myself. None of the other aunts seemed to like me so this would be interesting. “You’re stuck with me.”
She perked an eyebrow. “Stuck? Never mind, I don’t want you to answer that-where do you want to go?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. I hate shopping.”
Aunt Sam winced. “Honey, don’t ever say that. Shopping isn’t for everyone…but just ‘cause you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you hate it.” She draped an arm around my shoulders. “Seems like this family reunion has gone in separate directions-why don’t you help me find some earrings to go with my outfit for the Friday talent show?”
“There is no ‘talent’ in the family talent show.” I yawned. “Besides…I’m…hungry.”
“Hungry?” Aunt Sam perked up. “Great! Let’s get some pretzels.”
“Pretzels?” I stopped in mid-step. “Mom doesn’t let me eat those-”
“Don’t be silly-I used to buy them for her.” Aunt Sam sighed. “Are you allergic?” I shook my head. “Good, then I assume all responsibility for royally spoiling you-come along, dear niece!”
Now I know why Mom never wanted me to eat a cinnamon pretzel-I could eat a dozen of these and then I’d probably be sick. “Thef arf so goof!” I mumbled through another bite of pure bliss.
Aunt Sam chuckled. “Don’t tell me-you inherited your mother’s sweet tooth.”
“Mom has a sweet tooth?” I nearly choked. “Mom never eats sweet stuff!”
“Your mother was nearly diabetic-but now she’s a serious version of me.” Aunt Sam stuck her nose primly in the air.
“A serious what-Aunt Sam!” I licked sugar from my fingers.
“I’m a health nut too-just a little more relaxed than she is. Cinnamon pretzels are only for special trips to the mall-ooh! Look! Do you wear earrings?” Aunt Sam’s eyes darted between my ears and the jewelry boutique in front of us. “Liz, look! This would go great with your-”
“My what?” I scowled. “They’re kinda big.”
“So? It’s okay to stand out every now and then…how about these?” She held up another pair.
“Those are cute…wait, is that real gold?”
“Do you like them?” Aunt Sam held them up to my ears, peering over my shoulder to see in the tiny mirror. “You make them look good!”
“Yeah right-how much-” I lost my voice as I stared at the price-tag.
“Buy one get one half-off.” The salesclerk smiled. “That comes in silver too.”
Aunt Sam stepped forward to see and before I knew it, she left with two boxes in a gold plastic bag.
“I didn’t really need those.” I protested, trying to absorb the shock.
“Try ‘thank you’.” Aunt Sam corrected. “Let’s see…you’ll need something gorgeous to go with those earrings-let’s go over here…”
My afternoon melted away to something that vaguely felt like happiness. Aunt Sam was a bargain hunter-of the fiercest kind and an aunt made of something special.
I ended up with a new outfit and some cute accessories-but the real treasure was exchanging phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Aunt Sam simply reached out and enveloped me in love the kind of love that’s part sister, part mother and all God.
Shopping with Mom and four sisters usually left me with the short end of the stick. With Aunt Sam, my opinion counted. If the price was ridiculous-we’d scour the shops for the next best thing.
We exited the mall, overloaded with shopping bounty, a new friendship between us. “I think I like you, Liz.” Aunt Sam grinned. “You’re a different kind of niece.”
I love shopping.
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