BY SARA PALMER
Based on the suggestion: Shopping.
“Shame, shame, double shame, nobody knows your name. I’m Louis (pause for two beats) Fillmore.” Sang the man behind us as we walked down the sidewalk between the tall, metallic looking buildings that seemed to stretch through the sky. We were on a shopping trip to Minneapolis. School was starting soon and these shopping trips were favorites for my mom and her sister.
I was in sixth grade and traveling with my cousin, Jill nine months younger than me, and one of my best friends and her family. Our mothers are identical twins, which means lots of hanging out and frequently combined family vacations. As my cousin would say, “technically we are half sisters, because our mom’s are basically the same person.” Now, if you are a twin or know twins, you know that this is most certainly not true. There are many differences between the two and while, a lot of times my mother and aunt are so, so unequivocally the same, when it comes to personalities, the spectrum of laid back and cautious are definitely represented but I digress back to the story.
Curious, Jill and I immediately turn around to see where the singing is coming from. We see a tall man wearing a child’s size hunter green hoodie with the words “Greenbay Packers,” written on the front in bright yellow letters. Also, dark denim blue jeans tucked into a very worn out pair of brown leather cowboy boots.
“Shame, shame, double shame, nobody knows your name. I’m Louis (pause for two beats) Fillmore.” The man sang again, interrupting our inquiring gaze. My cousin and I love this because we too love making up songs. In fact, just weeks before, we had made up a song about the intense barking of her family’s toy poodle; lyrics representing the fact that he would bark at a leaf falling off the tree. Which made for quite a problem, living in the Midwest in the fall. The song actually made the dog bark more, which was a bonus for us, and an added annoyance for our family members. We simply told them he was singing with us.
The man’s song continued when suddenly, Jill’s sister, seven years older, tugged us around by our shoulders and with an aggressively breathy, “quit staring!” she snapped us instantly out of our musical trance. We immediately felt differently about the situation. Sure, it probably wasn’t good for us to stare, but in our defense, we weren’t as much staring as intrigued by a uniquely rhyming song. Drugs or mental illness had not even considered entering our minds at that age.
I cannot speak for my cousin, but for me, this sort of inquiring, continued for the next four to five years. Each vacation we went on or big city we traveled to, I would at some point have someone in my ear startling me with that aggressively breathy “quit staring!”
I daydream a lot. When I was a kid, I used to tell myself stories, silently in my head, to fall asleep. The stories would never come to an end and often times I would start the story over and over, several nights in a row without successful completion before moving on to a new one. To this day, I cannot listen to audiobooks without falling asleep.
So, to me, the staring that my family perceived was more or less, me daydreaming. At some point, I’m not even seeing the people, objects or situations anymore, but falling into a story, much like the ones I would tell myself when I was young. I assumed this stemmed from growing up in a small midwestern town, or at least that’s what I liked to tell myself. Whatever it was, I always caught myself wondering what the story was. I would see people on various forms of public transportation and would get caught up fascinated by what their story might be. Did they have a family? Was it like mine? What kind of job did they have? Yet, all to often I was being yanked away from my daydreaming with that aggressively breathy “quit staring!” breaking me back into reality.
Most recently, and one of my mother’s all-time favorite moments I know this because of how often she finds ways of telling this tale to others occurred during one of her yearly visits.
My niece was getting married and Shannon, my oldest sister was looking for a dress. We were at a small outdoor shopping plaza, which among other things housed a sort of Southwestern-y boutique that for whatever reason, my mother decided would be a good idea to wander into and by whatever reason, I mean, she saw a sale sign. I knew before even entering that this store was way off the mark. Yet, my mother, bless her heart, cannot resist a sale. She took Shannon to the sales racks leaving Heather, my middle sister, and I to our own devices as Shannon began selecting and trying on the strangest of mother-of-the-bride dresses. “Let’s just see what it looks like on”, my mother would suggest optimistically.
I wandered the store for a few minutes before running into a conversation that was happening between what I assumed was a seamstress, and a possible manager or owner of the shop. They were discussing the fact that a dress had been hemmed too short and what were they to do about it? Understandably I presume, I was immediately intrigued. I mean this was going to be a tough fix, right? So, of course, I locked in and the questions began to formulate. What will they tell the customer? Was this dress for a special occasion? Is there any way to add length, once its been taken off?
The conversation between the two was getting intense, when suddenly from behind me I heard, an aggressively breathy, and newly condescending, “what are you doing?” It was Heather.
I turned around; I knew I was caught, just like when I was younger. As I completed my turn, ready to tell her of this thrilling predicament, I saw her laughing. Then, we both began laughing, and not just laughing, but comically dying. Uncontrollable tears rolled down our cheeks, walking normally became task. Needless to say, we had to leave the store.
Meanwhile, my mom and Shannon finished shopping and were walking toward us. Heather’s face lit up with glee as she saw them heading our way. There was no way this was staying between the two of us, and I haven’t been able to live it down since.
Sara Palmer is a an improviser-writer-storyteller based in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Share your ideas for her next blog in the comments below.