In one month, my daughters will return to the classroom. It feels strange to shop for back-to-school clothes in the hottest weeks of summer, a time when they should be pulling on swimsuits and slipping their feet into flip-flops. On August 17th, they’ll have to put away their short-shorts and tank tops and dig deeper into their drawers to find more suitable clothing. If such things exist.
I had a feeling that Bermuda shorts would be hard to find in the last weeks of summer, or the sizes would be picked over. Ava, who just turned 9, has grown like a weed this summer, and few items from spring still fit her. She’s at an age that my Great Depression-era aunt refers to as “awkward”. “She’s all arms and legs,” she said. Lanky, was another phrase used. “Freakishly long legs,” someone else said. Lord, I hope she never reads this blog.
I dragged my long-legged child to the mall to look for a few pieces that would get us through the first weeks of school. It could be hot well into October, so I knew I needed to buy her a week’s worth of shorts and Capris so she could make different outfits. But the child isn’t interested in clothes. She would rather go to the dentist than have to try on clothes. And speaking of trying on clothes, I was suddenly challenged as to where to take her. She’s a bit too old for Gymboree and Crazy 8. Gap is OK, but the local selection is rather limited. Ava’s not a little girl anymore – she’s barely a tween – but she’s not ready for the stores that smoke you out with strong perfume and ear-splitting alternative music. Ok…fine…she’s in that awkward stage.
All of the tee-shirts had some type of odd graphic or phrase on the front: Carrots riding bikes. The words, “I AM THE FUTURE” splashed across the chest. Fun? I guess. But, they were tissue paper thin and destined to become a nightgown for Barbie after one washing. The shorts looked like someone had beaten them against a rock before sending them to the store. Everything had holes in them; the hemlines were rolled up and left unfinished. The jeans had…brace yourself…bleached “whiskers” on the front. And I was in a higher end department store.
Where are all the regular clothes?
Despite Ava’s lack of concern for fashion, she registers on the conservative side. She channels Katharine Hepburn in that she doesn’t like dresses or skirts. On the last day of the semester, she asked if she could change her white tee-shirt. “Why?” I asked. “It’s going to be near 90 today. A lighter shirt will be cooler.” Ava dropped her chin. “I’m afraid someone will see through my shirt.”
Oh. Now I get it. At least I have one less problem to worry about. She’s modest, too.
With some effort, I did manage to find some shirts for her that were unassuming. We went into Aeropostale, and even though she was still too little to wear the shorts and pants, she could wear their polo shirts in an extra small. The colors were bright and cheerful, and the late summer prices were surprising: Only $5.99.
From there, we tried The Children’s Place, which upon first glance seemed like a store where we would outfit my younger daughter, Maryn, who is 6. However, as I dug through the stacks of denim and twill shorts that met the “arms-to-the-sides-fingertips-to-the-hemline” test, I was able to get my hands on size 10 shorts with elastic strips in the waist to keep them on her hips. Luckily, they too, were well priced at $12.
Finally, we made our way to the shoe store, where Ava decided that a pair of white Keds would be fine. We searched the towers of boxes in the children’s aisle, but our luck ran out. Why? Because my kid now wears a ladies size 6. No more tennies for ten bucks. We’re in the big leagues now. That’ll be $36.99. Debit or credit?
With pretty shirts and longer shorts and wider shoes, Ava and I strolled out of the mall carrying bags that were cutting into our wrists. She stopped as we entered the parking garage and readjusted them. With her left hand now free, she clasped mine and began walking again. Thankfully, we’re still a perfect fit.