My favorite song in first grade was "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore, and I sang it in front of the entire elementary school in the Variety Show.
For my 11th birthday I got episodes of The Honeymooners on VHS.
Best. Birthday. Ever.
I have a real passion for rescuing things from the past and bringing them back to life. Which explains why you can barely walk in our garage. And also why there is an entire corn crib hanging up in the second floor of our house.
I believe in hand-me-downs
and writing letters
and recipe cards stained by time and shortening
and clothes on the line
and mom jeans.
Even mom jeans.
This explains why I was pretty darn excited when I received a gift card to the women's store, Coldwater Creek. While I'm not in the market for any elastic waistband trousers, I do appreciate timeless pieces that I can add to my wardrobe and wear for years to come. However, the Coldwater Creek in Indianapolis just announced that they're closing in May.
I rarely shop outside of Richmond's Elder-Beerman, but a bit of urgency to spend that gift card set in with the closing announcement.
But before I start this story, let's be clear on one thing:
NONE of the women in Coldwater Creek actually look like the ladies that adorn the website.
"Marie!!" yelled the 103-year-old man in khakis and a Titleist polo.
"What Frank!?" a small, petite woman yelled from behind a rack of cardigans.
"My God I've been all over this mall looking for you..." mumbled the grumpy old man with both hands full of shopping bags, shaking his head.
"Why would you go all over searching for me?" she nagged. "This is the only place I shop!"
I smiled to myself and looked around; everyone who witnessed the reunion was doing the same. I found a few pieces that I liked and requested a dressing room.
For whatever reason, some of my life's most memorable encounters happen in dressing rooms, where I'm completely exposed and vulnerable; at the mercy of some stranger to bring me the size I actually wear, without judgement.
There was a gal about my age working the dressing room. Her name was Rachel. She was patient and had on comfortable shoes.
Like a good granddaughter, she traveled down the aisle assuring that all customers had what they needed.
"Margaret, do you need anything?"
"No, thank you," Margaret replied.
"Doris, how are you getting along?"
"Fine, right now," Doris replied.
"Betty? Do you like that dress you held back?"
"I haven't made it that far!" Betty laughed.
"Phyllis, everything fitting?"
"Well," Phyllis said, "I guess I must have gained some weight since Christmas..." she said, sounding questionable.
"Ok," said Rachel, "What size did you try on?"
"10," said Phyllis.
"So would you like me to grab you a 12?" Rachel asked.
There was rustling in the dressing room next to me.
"...Better make it a 16."
With my hand over my mouth, I wondered if Phyllis was referencing weight gain from this Christmas or the Christmas of '95?
I decided that I needed to depart Coldwater Creek as soon as possible. I found two things I wanted, and longed to find a store where the customer names weren't cycling back into popularity after 70 years.
I got in line to check out when I saw something - a lot of things - that caught my attention:
Flowers...arrangements lined up on the shelf behind the counter like a funeral home.
What in the world?
Beside me, Peggy wondered as I did, and she inquired.
"Oh, those are from faithful customers and even some other stores here in Keystone. They sent them because of our closing," said the gal behind the register, voice cracking.
And just then, it hit me: I'm at a funeral calling for Coldwater Creek.
And boy, did her comment open the flood gates.
There were tears.
"How could they?!"
"When did you find out?"
"You would think by the money I spent here..."
There were also the women pulling coupons out of their purses.
Gift cards, too.
I was one of them.
Women gave tearful hugs to each employee and thanked them for their help over the years.
Amongst all the tears, one old hag even had the audacity to ask what the drop dead (no pun intended, of course) date for returns was.
I liked her.
Mind in the right place.
By the time I got to the register I didn't know if I should just present my gift card or tell the employees how the store never looked so natural and that it lived a long and happy life.
I left Coldwater Creek with a few things that afternoon:
A new appreciation for customer loyalty,
a bag that better - given the price - last until we're the age that Cody gets lost looking for me in the mall,
and a new black lace pencil skirt to wear in the event of the next fashion funeral.
Please, retail gods who make those decisions, don't let it be Elder-Beerman.
I'll feel obligated to send flowers.