I have written about a variety of traditions that are different between The Netherlands and America, but there are some that are the same. Like back to school shopping.

We recently went to a big mall in the city of Amstelveen to get some clothes to for our pre-teen boy and our teen age girl. We went to this mall as it high a variety of big name stores and the kids are now completely aware of brand names. Plus, we hoped that these high end stores would have some great back to school sales.

I must confess that this is not the kind of day trip that I have enjoyed in the past, I do not enjoy visiting malls and going in and out of stores. I did not like doing this as a teenager, and that has not changed. But all in all, this was not a bad experience. We were there for three hours and by the end, we were all feeling done in. As I said, put a fork in me now, I am done.

The kids are like laser beam shoppers. They know what stores are good for them, they know the little corners where the sale items are kept and they are familiar with all the different types of dressing rooms. I got to practice some of my Dutch and actually asked the store clerks for information, and they actually understood me, which is amazing to me.

This day reminded me of my shopping experiences many years ago. When my mother would take my sister and I clothes shopping, we always did the same thing when we got home. We had to put on a fashion show for our Dad. He would sit in his big chair and we would parade in front of him wearing our new outfits. He would give us some kind of feedback, and I honestly cannot remember any fashion raves or insults, but we got to show off what we had been doing for the last five hours. Then all the tags were cut off and the clothes were put away for the biggest day of the year—the first day of school.

My second memory is of a specific day when my mother and I went shopping at a mall. My mother and I had very different taste in clothes and so it was always a battle of wills to see who was going to win. But for my mom, I think she loved the idea of going out with me and having some fun at the mall. And she was always a fun person to be with, even if it meant looking for clothes. On this day, I was now a teenager and finding myself growing up in ways that I did not really understand. There was a part of me that wanted to still call her Mommy and there was another part that just knew that I had to call her Mom. As we walked along, in this mall, she took my hand and said something like, “isn’t this fun?” I remember pulling my hand away not because I did not like holding her hand, but I was afraid of being caught. What if someone from school spotted me holding my mother’s hand?! My social standing in the school would be devastated by this. I felt bad that I pulled away from my mom, and I knew that she was disappointed and maybe even hurt. I told her that I was too old for hand holding, that I was a teenager now. She had always told us that we would always be her babies and that age had nothing to do with it. I just remember walking side by side with her and knowing we would not walk hand in hand again.

And now, many years later, I have a daughter and a son, who are 13 and 12 years old. As we were walking out of Uncle John’s hospital room, our daughter took my hand and we walked like that for quite a while. This is something she has rarely done, so it stood out to me. On the other hand, our son has been holding my hand for years and he is the one who always reaches for my hand. But I have been emotionally preparing myself for the day when he would no longer do this, that he would do to me what I did to my mother. I know that it is very normal behavior and part of growing up, but I just love his little hand in mine.

On this day of shopping, he slipped his hand in mine. Over and over again, he held my hand as we walked along the shops. He would be talking to me about Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Nike and he still held my hand. At one point, his sister was far ahead and I said “you can go walk with her, I don’t want to slow you down.” He said “no, I want to be with you. This feels good to me.” And so we walked on and you could possibly see the glow from my heart.

If I could take a moment back and reverse my actions, I would have held onto my mother’s hand and said the same thing to her…”this feels good to me.” Because, in all honesty, it felt awfully good.

Recommended viewing: a wonderful Australian film called THE SAPPHIRES. This is about four young women who start a singing group in 1968. A great story and a fabulous soundtrack.   

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  • Karen  On August 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful day to me!

  • Nola Branche  On August 31, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Hi Jane. On your recommendation, we saw The Sapphires. Loved it! Also liked The Storyteller… But then, I’m a Jodi Picoult fan, and have liked the variety of themes in most of her books.

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