I had a few more days of vacation time coming to me this month, so I went on a road trip yesterday and brought Mom along. And we had a good time.
It should be explained that my mother and I have almost nothing in common. One day while we were having a difference of opinion over interior decoration or where to go for Sunday dinner or some other inconsequential matter, she exclaimed, "I don't think there is one thing that you like, that I like too." And that made me sad, because it's true. We're like matter and anti-matter most of the time. When I first moved back to the old hometown to help her out, several years ago, we initially got along swell, just because she was lonely, and because, without my father's overpowering Prussian pater familias presence, it was a way to reacquaint ourselves with one another, to intereact as two adults. It was kind of fun watching her slowly gain the confidence to become her own person, and encouraging her to do so.
But -- sometimes we have issues. There is friction, and whining, and miscommunication, and frustration, and just not getting one another. So when Mom intially suggested using my long weekend to shop for a new recliner (to replace the Frasier-esque monstrosity, from the Days of Dad, currently favored by our dog), I had visions of three miserable days schlepping an 80+-year-old around the state (if you think, "I'm hungry," "I have to go to the bathroom," and "Are we there yet?" are the exclusive province of young families -- guess again), and engaging in hissed altercations in countless furniture stores.
The day before yesterday, Mom said, "You know -- instead of shopping for a chair, why don't we go to that place in Blanchard?"
"That place" is Loafer's Glory , an old false-front hardware store that has been rehabbed into a kind of mini-mall of faux-vintage kitsch. I became acquainted with this place many years ago, back during a time of my life when I had a fascination for Victorian women's culture -- the hearts and flowers and faeries, the pagan-revival imagery, the subtle homoeroticism. (Although at the time, even thinking that word would have sent me to my fainting couch with a case of the vapors.) Anyhow, in addition to being a purveyor of knock-off Victoriana, Loafer's Glory also had a nice little tea room inside, two beautiful perennial gardens outside, and was situated in a lovely, historical little village in the middle of nowhere. I love old buildings, am distressed when I see them left to slowly disintigrate, and am happy when someone can bring them back to life in a new context.
So -- Mom wanted to go to Loafer's Glory. I hadn't been there in awhile.
"Cool," I replied. "Let's go tomorrow."
So we did.
The Victoriana is all gone now...it's just so late 1980's. That's how it goes in the manufactured nostalgia biz -- you need to keep people buying new new old stuff instead of being happy with their old new old stuff. Colonial-era primitives are all the rage, as is faith-based merchandise (Fruits of the Spirit handcream, anyone?) and some items that defy categorization, like reprints of the Dick and Jane readers I loathed in first grade. Chickens are in, but not the taxidermied chickens that Loafer's Glory used to sell; I always got a macabre kick out of them. The place has a new grotto devoted to cabin culture, where shoppers can find needful things like a plush standing bear, maybe three feet tall, with a spool for holding toilet paper in one paw and a sign in the other paw saying something like, "Do Your Paperwork at the End." And there is merchandise everywhere, hanging from every inch of wall space and covering every flat surface; there's even merchandise in the restrooms, for the thoughtful buyer who needs a few minutes of quiet contemplation.
And -- Loafer's Glory is majorly estrogen-intensive. There are more double-X chromosomes per square yard there than, I think, any other venue that doesn't have "Womyn" in the name. Every once in awhile you'll see a very sad, confused man being vigorously yanked through the place by ecstatic female relatives, like a sacrificial bull being led to slaughter at some ancient women's mystery.
Now, you may be sensing that my snark factor was turbocharging in this atmosphere, and you'd be right, but not in a malicious way. It was fun. And...the place does something to you. You're laughing to yourself over some absurd objet d' art like an outrageously overpriced fake-antique running-stitch sampler bearing the sentiment, "Simplicity Is A Gift"...and then the potpourri and baking cinnamon bread aromas get to you, and the dulcimer music coming from the overhead speakers, and the ceramic chickenry and stamped-tin weather vanes, and pretty soon you're finding yourself thinking, "That might be kind of cute in the right house," until your rational self dope-slaps you upside the head: What are you thinking? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
Mom is hard of hearing, so it was difficult to share some of these observations with her in the midst of the shopping crowd, but we did manage a few mutual raised-eyebrows over this or that. She is also not much into "stuff," so she seemed to be approaching this adventure with the same pop-culture-field-trip mentality as mine. (Aha -- one thing we have in common!)
We had a great lunch in the tea room, featuring all the foods my doctor wants me to shun, served by an earnest young waitress decked out like a Colonial serving wench. We sat at a long communal table next to a half-dozen costumed Red Hat Society women rather seriously tucking into their chow; on our other side was a group of ladies-who-lunch who, after making a point of saying grace, proceeded to viciously trash some absent mutual acquaintance -- I thought it an evocative public example of simul iustus et peccator. The piece de resistance of our repast was buttermilk pie, the house specialty, loaded with enough eggs and butter to infarct an elk and topped with broiled coconut besides. It was so tasty that the prospect of suddenly falling over dead to a dulcimer rendition of "Holy, Holy, Holy" didn't seem like a half-bad way to go.
We didn't buy anything. But we had a jolly good time.