Anybody else out there remember taking a once a year shopping trip for clothes when you were in elementary and/or middle school? One and done. The tennis shoes you bought better last you the whole school year or you’d be lining them with cardboard. Sorry if your jeans got too short, better just try and wear socks that matched as closely as possible and hope no one noticed.
Ah, the memories.
Momma used to take us school shopping right at the brink of each new school year. This was back before the internet. Yes, there was life before the internet. Back then, you couldn’t get online and order everything you needed and have it show up on your doorstep in the speed of light. Nope. You actually had to get in your car, drive across town, pick out the clothes, try them on, then stand in line to purchase them.
Archaic, I know.
School usually started in sweltering August, right about the time of my birthday. Side note: I was always deeply disappointed in elementary school because school would start right AFTER my day of birth and I never got to wear the birthday crown with all of its benefits and accolades.
Not sure I’m really over it.
On one exciting morning Momma, my sisters and I would climb into the hot car, (most of the cars we owned over the years didn’t have air-conditioning, oh, and we never wore seatbelts), and head out to shop. I heard some of you young mommas gasp at the idea of not wearing seatbelts. I’ve seen ten year olds strapped down to a car seat that barely fit under them, seems like society goes from one extreme to the other. Also, keep in mind this was way back before it was the law. Cars were equipped with them, but they were buried under the seat somewhere only to emerge when you were searching for lost change. I’m not encouraging not wearing seatbelts, but I think it’s worth noting that we did live to tell the stories about it.
Anyway, back on track, we each received one hundred dollars for our once a year shopping trip. For our family that may as well have been one hundred thousand dollars. It was a LOT and I felt like I must’ve entered into a wild dream as we sat shoulder to shoulder in the back seat, sweat dripping down our backs because, you know, no air. As I sat with the windows rolled all the way down, and my hair slapping me in the face, I dreamed of all the fine things I was going to buy and how amazing I would look walking proudly down the halls of school in my one hundred dollar clothes.
That was the best day of the year to me.
Up until high school, Momma used to take us every year without fail to Monroeville, AL where the Lee Jean Factory lived. Back then, it was a huge warehouse chalked full of everything from underwear to blue jeans. Momma would walk us in the door and then set us free with clear parameters of where we could pick and choose our new clothes. Funny thing is, I didn’t know we were shopping in the misfit section. I had no idea. Misfit being the jeans that were rejected and couldn’t be sent to the finer stores, like the ones in the mall. They might be missing a button or a pocket was sewn shut, or the hem in one leg was longer than the other.
It was the section for imperfect items.
Thinking back on those trips to Monroeville, I can’t help but grin. We may have worn lopsided jeans and three legged panties, but we didn’t have a care in the world. As a kid I was clueless, but now I realize I fit perfectly in the imperfect section. So many things about me are far from perfect. But I’ve noticed the more I embrace all of my flaws, the happier I am. I will never have Pantene commercial hair, or Oil of Olay skin, no, you’ll find me on the aisle where there’s shampoo to help volumize thin, mousy hair. And, no amount of moisturizer is going to make these wrinkles go away.
But, I wonder, should we even call those things that make us an individual, flaws? Maybe it’s our distinctions that make us uniquely beautiful.
This year, this shiny new year, I’m dedicated to being more thankful for all of it.
Even my stretch marks.
This life is a gift.
Beautiful, imperfect life.
You know, I may take a trip to the Lee Jean Factory sometime. I think the proper name for it is Vanity Fair, but I like the name I gave it as a kid better. It would certainly bring back a lot of memories. And, who knows, maybe I’ll even venture out of the assigned parameters to see what else they sell? And maybe I’ll buy a shiny new pair of jeans with the pockets sewn shut, just for old time’s sake and as a reminder…imperfect really is perfect.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!”