I Know What Hell Looks Like

It seemed like a brilliant idea, really–the kind of idea that our children would later file away in their memories as evidence that they had good parents. Caleb was spending the night with Grammy and his cousin for some quality boy time, so Matt and I were left with the girls. And I wanted the weekend to feel special, a full night and day devoted to all things our girls liked.

My brilliant plan included dinner the night before at the restaurant of their choice, and then the next day would include shopping. While her mother would rather do anything but, Hannah Grace has had an affinity toward shopping since she was old enough to recognize dainty dresses floating on hangers and necklaces sparkling on display. And Chloe, not quite two, is our happy, laid-back baby, content to remain in her parents’ company. Since my kids needed shoes for the warm weather that had already arrived and their Easter outfits, shoe-shopping seemed like the perfect activity to make my girls feel special.

It’s funny how the memory works. I’ve heard some say that if women truly remembered the pain of labor, they wouldn’t have any more children. In my case, having a selective memory has ensured that my children get new clothes.

As soon as Matt pushed the stroller to the front of the store, I gripped Hannah Grace’s hand tighter and remembered. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I had ever forgotten. This day would not be all butterflies and roses.

We made our way to the chair and got the girls’ feet measured without any trouble. And then I spoke the words.

“Okay, Hannah Grace. We’re going to look for some sandals today for your Easter dress and…”

It was like a starting gun had gone off. Before I even finished the sentence she was running to all the shoes on display.

“You stay with Chloe. I’ll focus on Hannah Grace,” I hurriedly ordered Matt as I was pulled by the current of Hannah Grace’s sensory overload.

“Ooohhh. I love these! Look at these shoes!” She began grabbing.

“No, Hannah Grace. Wait a minute.”

I tried to explain, but the pretty colors were somehow affecting her hearing. She started trying on tennis shoes. She was stomping her feet, hoping that every pair was the kind whose soles lit up with red lights every time she took a step. It didn’t matter the size–12-8-10–as long as they were pretty, as in sparkles and fluorescent colors, they ended up on her feet.

“Hannah Grace,” I tried again, “these are beautiful, but we’re not getting tennis shoes today. We need sandals for the warm weather and to match your Easter dress.”

Boxing up the other shoes as quickly as I could, I grabbed her hand and led her to the next display full of sandals. I found the pair that I hated the most, one with a big flower stuck near the top and showed them to Hannah Grace.

“How about these?”

“No. I don’t like them.”

“Really? You don’t think they’re pretty…”

She started to move back toward the tennis shoes.

“What about this pair, Hannah Grace?”

“No, I like this one,” she said grabbing a pair of strappy hot pink and orange sandals.

They were hideous, but I didn’t care. I knew how this day would go. The shoes wouldn’t match her purple Easter dress, but they would serve their purpose for the summer. I could check out some consignment shops if I needed to, but for now, we had to leave the store happy.

“Okay, Hannah, let’s look for your size.”

As soon as I started pulling boxes, she turned around.

“Oooohh! I love these!!!”

And she began pulling boxes of pink slippers off the shelf behind us, all adorned with Disney princesses.

“No, Hannah Grace, we’re not getting these.”

My blood pressure was rising. I began fanning myself. I turned to the back wall of the store where the thermostat was set. It was set for 74 degrees. That meant it was at least 112 with all the hot air my daughter was releasing.

She began running from aisle to aisle, looking at all the pretty shoes that we weren’t getting. Next she found beautiful white, patent leather shoes, and she tapped into my guilt reserve. They were sweet little shoes just like I had when I was a little girl. But that wasn’t the plan. I had budgeted for three kids and was trying to be economical. Matt only got paid once a month–this plan made sense.

Our church is contemporary. The little girls don’t wear big, poofy dresses every Sunday, so I figured she would get more use out of a pretty pair of sandals than white shoes that she would only wear once. But now as I looked at these shoes, guilt began to gnaw at me.

But I couldn’t do math that quickly, couldn’t recalculate figures in my head to ensure fairness among all three children and still get what we needed. The problem with children five and under is that they can’t reuse shoes from season to season–their feet are always growing.

And thus started the tantrum. There was crying. There was stomping of feet. Hannah Grace threw a pretty good fit, too.

And Matt intervened.

“Here, I’ll walk with Hannah Grace,” he said while leading her by the hand back to sandal aisle.

I grabbed Chloe and found the section of shoes in her size and grabbed the first pair of sandals that I liked.

“Do you like these?” I asked her.

“Yesh,” she replied.

“Good.” I grabbed the box, and we went back to the chair to try them on.

Two seconds later, Hannah Grace joined us with a pair of tennis shoes.

“Hannah, I’m going to go crazy,” I said through gritted teeth.

Matt came back with a pair of metallic pink and purple shoes, and panic set in. I tried to communicate with him telepathically to turn around, but he didn’t get the message. I had seen those shoes, too. Yes, she would love them. No, they didn’t have her size. But it was too late.

“What about these, Hannah Grace?”

“I love them!!!”

And I hung my head in despair.

More crying.

The sales clerk came over. She had two pair of shoes from the back that were in her size but not on display.

“What about these?” she suggested.

“No,” Hannah Grace said.

“Hannah Grace, why don’t you like these?” I know my daughter. She was turning up her nose at most of the bright colored sandals, sandals with flowers, the silver sandals, too, all sandals that normally she would love.

“We can’t stay here longer. You don’t have to get sandals today, but then we’re leaving with nothing. We’ll go to another store later.”

She put on the silver sandals, decided she liked them, and I started to box them up to go the register. Matt had picked out a pair for Caleb. We were finished.

And then she took off for the sandal section again.

“Hannah Grace! We have to go now! You like the silver sandals,” I ordered her.

“No! They don’t match,” she began to cry. “My dress is purple. I need purple sandals.”

Please, Lord, tell me this hasn’t been the problem all along.

“No, Hannah Grace, they don’t have to be purple. They can be white, brown, silver, black–all those colors match.” I was using very loose matching rules. I just wanted her to pick a pair of shoes and leave happy. Today was supposed to be a special day, not  a sign of the suffering and despair that is to happen in the end times.

“They have to be purple.”

“No, sweetie; they really don’t. Look, white goes with anything.”

Hannah Grace walked over to one of the most modest pair of white, closed-toe sandals with pink flowers, a pair that I purposely overlooked assuming she wouldn’t like them. She tried them on and was satisfied.

“Okay, we can get these?”

And I started boxing them up before she had time to change her mind.

I was certain she would hate them later, but she didn’t. She wore them out of the store, in the mini-van, and the whole rest of the day.

And when I asked her later if she were happy with her new sandals, she shook her head ‘yes’ and gave a big smile, lighting up her whole face.

And while I’m glad she’s happy, I’m already praying that her feet don’t grow for two years.



13 thoughts on “I Know What Hell Looks Like

  1. Sooo funny! I can picture the entire scene and from my memory trove can remember same thing last year. Hannah Grace and her Aunt Lisa share the same shopping/shoe gene. Her shoes are adorable (and not a bit of purple.)?:)


  2. I think I'll tell Hannah that I saw a pair of high heel sandals at the same store in purple that would look great on her and that if she asked nice maybe mommy would take her there again…… right after school.

    love Dad


  3. Too funny! Those days are long past us now, at least until grandkids. What a great and entertaining story, I've said it before, but you have a true talent to turn the ordinary in awesome. In the end I found a happy ending and I believe you found, in your writing, your sanity. Good Job Jennifer


  4. Next time, you can take her shopping since you can relate! I'll watch your kids–I don't think we live near each other, though, do we?


  5. I would imagine each kid is different, but her brother has never acted that way. He gets excited over any new pair of shoes we bring home.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s