I took my mom shopping this weekend to one of her favorite places in the world: JC Penney’s. We have been lifelong JC Penney’s fans. I’ve never called it “Penney’s.” It seems too blasphemous. It was one of the only places that shipped to Saipan which meant it was a big deal. I remember dreamily flipping through the super thick catalogs, circling the most expensive toys, checking out the 18-hour bras that maybe one day I would be able to fill and fantasizing about the life that these lucky mainlanders were able to have. I was ordering the Stoneybrook, Connecticut world I read about in the Babysitters Club: stirrup pants, big earrings, bikes with floral baskets and streamers. I rarely got what I had circled. My parents opted for practical purchases like dresses and shoes, things I would wear. Everything else was filed back into my dream bank of what it must have been like to live in the mainland.
In the seventh grade, I tried to impress some girls by wearing a JC Penney’s dress and some princess outed me by yelling, “I saw that in the kid’s section!” These were not the successful times of high-fashion. My House of Style episode would show how I poorly mimicked Aaliyah’s boxer short + baggy jeans trend and another princess laughed, “My grandpa wears those!” I don’t know where these princesses are now. I haven’t heard about them conducting valuable cancer research or writing novels or engineering solutions to benefit mankind. Their facebook posts are sunset pictures with inspirational sayings. They’re most likely still on Saipan or some small town, keeping their lips immaculately painted but never saying any real words of substance, too afraid they have nothing to say.
We’ve had a lot of heartache with JC Penney’s, too. They stopped printing the thick catalogs. First there were thin seasonal offerings: a catalog for spring wear or a catalog for homegoods. Then that disappeared and we were directed to look at the website. The biggest disappointment came when they discontined a line of clothing called Cabin Creek which was really for older women living in the suburbs, not pioneering ladies who needed to chop wood or they wouldn’t survive the winter. My mom loved all their elastic waist band cotton capri pants, floral v-neck shirts and everything that screams, “I have some questions about this AARP form!”
This weekend I lost my mother. I had turned around to browse through a sales rack when she disappeared. It was like that kid’s book, where I chase every short lady whose fluffy hair poked over the racks and asked, “Are you my mother?”
Then I heard a voice call over the intercom: “Could Mona Concepcion please come to customer service? Your mom is looking for you.” And lo and behold a friend was also there and instead of joining the search party, she posted this:
And once again, I am in seventh grade, wanting to be cool but my mom said I can’t stay out late you guys! It’s a school night!