I wrote this many years ago and just found it in a 2004 blog posting; decided to share it again. The son involved is now a married man.
Giving CPR in the middle of men's wear in a large department store was not on the agenda.
It might have been the result of only having sons on shopping expeditions. Maybe daughters would mean that buying clothes are peaceful occasions and not heart-stopping adventures.
Perhaps it was the rarefied atmosphere created by many people breathing in an enclosed space: a sale was on, the fans were not. Plus I had not had breakfast, that was on the list of things to do after we'd made a purchase or two.
I should be prepared for such things in a long career of homemaking. But I am not.
There we were, my youngest son and I, browsing quite contentedly through merchandise artfully arranged. This adolescent son was amused over the rude gesture he was certain one of the mannequins was making and I was silently thinking how a few years earlier he would likely have tried to straighten the dummy's finger.
A sojourn in the shoe section had resulted in a pair of slippers. The salesman kept trying to determine a size - those silver foot measurers seem to have gone out of vogue. Come to think of it, so have stools, and it is disconcerting to watch a clerk balance precariously on his heels in a crouch as he surveys a foot and tries to eyeball the length. My son was more concerned with colour and style. Lord knows who might suddenly drop by during the fifteen or so minutes of the day when he is actually wearing slippers and he has to look cool.
When he spotted the pair he liked he let me and the salesman decide on a size and was willing enough to try one on when we had come up with a choice. "How do they feel?" I inquired. The clerk looked dubious about squatting before this manchild and pressing on his toes. "Cool," said youngest son. "We'll take them," I said.
I declined the bulky box the slippers came in but was told I'd have to keep it until the cashier had rung in the sale. The numbers on the side of the box had to be offered to the great computer in the sky on the fourth floor before we would be allowed to leave the store without dire consequences. If a buzzer ever went off at my failure to placate the radio beam police I would likely faint or blush and stammer, both equally unpleasant, so I try to avoid this at all cost.
I carried around the slippers in their huge box. Plus a shirt which was added to the collection in two seconds flat; this was easy once we'd walked around the store twice and relocated the shirt my son had seen a day or two earlier.
Also I was carrying my own and my son's backpack as he made frequent trips to the change room to try on clothing.
Attempts across the years to allow and foster independence in my offspring was bearing fruit (oh, sigh). He knew what he wanted and what he didn't like. What he had liked immediately was a pair of jeans on a plastic hip and legs. They were belted and fetchingly displayed and my kid was drawn to the shade, which he felt was exactly right, sort of a broken-in colour. I can relate to his attraction to patina in clothing.
Well, much searching through hundreds of pairs of jeans on the racks, under the racks, in amongst the shirts, in change rooms (this was sale day, remember) did not turn up the same jeans in the right size. My son was hanging out in the dressing room so he wouldn't have to put his shoes on and off again and I went to find someone to get me THOSE JEANS. All the clerks were not there.
The shoe salesman was actually in evidence but crouching in front of a rather elderly gentleman who looked like he wouldn't kick out if his toes were prodded so I simply leaned over and said quietly to that clerk, "I'm going to undress a mannequin and I thought someone should know." I scooted before he could respond.
Disrobing that plastic display was a breeze to a mother who has met the challenge of numerous times taking jeans, shirt, socks, shoes (sometimes in that order) off of sons who did not want to stop playing, come indoors, and get ready for bed.
But, you can understand, I was a bit exhausted after having passed the prize jeans onto son in change room. There were no chairs for tired ladies outside the men's dressing room as there are outside the cubicles in the women's section. Perhaps the store assumes, or hopes, ladies will just keep on shopping while their menfolk try on clothes.
Not I. I needed to sit down. So I perched on a corner of a dais display and carefully tucked my feet out of the way of passersby in the aisle.
To pass the time and avoid the curious glances of people who thought it odd for a middling-aged lady to be sitting in a pile of shirts, I read the slipper box.
It was a mistake. The print told me the slippers could breathe. That they had a thousand or so microscopic air holes or something. I thought of lungs. Of those air sacs I had meticulously drawn in Biology 100. Of oxygen going in and carbon dioxide going out.
Then I noticed that the slippers were tightly packed in the box with a plastic cover. I couldn't stand it. (Blame my empty stomach, thin air sale day situation, on-view position or you'll think I'm totally crazy.) I opened one end of the box.
That was better. Now the slippers could get air. But were they all right? I sort of put my face up close and kind of listened. And then, I admit it, I put my mouth against the toe of one of the slippers and puffed gently into its fabric.
That, of course, is exactly the moment my son came to claim me.
He took one look at his mother with her lips around the toe of a slipper and passed me by without a second glance.
I caught up with him by one exit before he went out and before we set all the alarms jingling with our unpaid merchandise. He was chuckling. And the slippers were fine and breathing quite well on their own.