Wednesday, March 4, 2020

My most basic purchase

My favorite things, my most useful things, all the good superlatives, were all hand-me-downs, trades, and gifts. I tend to be very boring and very practical. I don't have a "my most frivolous purchase" that is worth writing about (probably a hand soap) and my "most cherished purchase" is probably wool socks or maybe even an electric blanket. If I'm buying something, it's not worth writing about.

Along the same lines, my stupidest purchase is probably a set of sheets made of a poly cotton blend that are still stiff as a board 15 years later. My most embarrassing purchase? Ok, that would be the second hand chair that I thought I could get up the narrow steps to Sophia's room but of course couldn't and now lives in the basement TV room.


This evening, though, I decided to write about Maeve. My middle daughter comes from a family of quirky people. Her father is quirky, if maybe perhaps bordering on not-quite-neurotypical kind of quirky. Her older sister is for sure quirky. I am too. Maeve is not quirky. I mean, yes she is, of course she is, but she doesn't really want to be seen that way. People, her parents included, would give her gifts on birthdays and Christmases based on notions she had, things that would come and go. Hedgehogs. Velvet. Scandinavian decor. Musicals. Roller Derby. They were notions, a way of trying to define herself that her older sister didn't succumb to. Older sister started her feet on a path and just kept walking. Maeve jumped around the path and the ditches on the side and got distracted by rolling down a hill and then forgot the path entirely in favor of, say, an Italian canal or an airstrip. Maeve seemed like she was going to be quirky.

Maeve hit 13 or 14 and started to regularize herself. No one noticed, because her quirky damned family was trying to figure out what quirky thing she was going to become. Two Christmases of llama pillows and funny t-shirts about Hamilton and sequined pillows that change color when you brush your hand across and a giant stuffed narwhal and I was starting to get the idea that this wasn't Maeve. Maeve was shopping at the mall with girlfriends. Maeve was drinking Starbucks with reusable straws and wearing really good makeup she bought herself with babysitting and dogwalking money and it finally struck me that Maeve might be quirky on the inside but outwardly she wanted desperately to be basic.

It reminded me of me. How often I just wanted to blend. I could be making dollhouse quilts and writing bad short stories at home, but when I went out of the house, I just wanted to blend. I wanted to be like other people. It took me decades to stop blending, or rather, to stop caring about blending (I think I never really blended that well).

So this past Christmas I walked into the mall. I went to the Kendra Scott store. I bought her an Elisa necklace like all the basic girls were wearing. Hell, all the basic moms were wearing. It wasn't on Maeve's list. I don't even know if it was on Maeve's radar.

She opened it this Christmas and squealed like she hasn't since she was four years old tearing through wrapping paper like a heroin addict looking for her next fix.

When we were all heading to bed, Maeve sat back on the couch and sighed. "People understood me this year. I got everything I wanted."

She has worn that Elisa necklace every day since Christmas.

Like every other basic midwestern white girl.

And that's ok.

So that's my most thoughtful purchase. And possibly my most vapid. And both can be true.


  1. What a wonderful story. I hope you read it to Maeve, many years hence.

  2. I love that. Yes, both can be true. And I found it fascinating how you explained about her being quirky then not, but everyone assuming she was still quirky. Also, I love the word "quirky."

  3. OMG, this is beautiful. And so understanding.

  4. What a wonderful post and a thoughtful gift.