I miss Sears.
At first I felt a little embarrassed that I was so emotional about Sears closing. I mean, if I’m honest, Sears hasn’t been a staple in my world for a good couple of decades, so I feel a little culpable for its closing. Like I should’ve bought more appliances and comforter sets just to support. But still, it’s Sears. Isn’t it always supposed to be there? In this fast-paced world of virtual everything, Sears was a constant. A tangible, bricks and mortar throwback, that promised overhead fluorescent lighting, sales ladies with perms and sensible slacks and trousers. Sears: the department store of every 1980’s mom.
That’s part of why I miss Sears. Because I miss my Mom. My Mom has been gone 5 years now. That’s 5 Christmases, 5 birthdays, 5 Mother’s Days, 5 years of stuff that has happened that she doesn’t know about. It’s true what they say, that it gets easier. Sort of. Maybe not easier, but it gets…different. But for some reason, this Christmas, well, this Christmas sucked. I missed her something terrible this Christmas. I ached for her. And it’s hard to talk about when it’s been 5 Christmases because other people are experiencing their first Christmases, so really, I should suck it up, ‘cuz all in all, I’m doing ok. Nonetheless, I longed for her.
On one particular cold and snowy December night this year, I missed her so much that I found myself wandering around Sears, just to be near some essence of her. My Mom was a “Sears Mom”. You know the type! My Mom had a Sears card that she used to pay off monthly with an actual hard copy cheque. She’d pull up to the secret back lot, by the ‘Women’s Wear’ door, where there were only 10 coveted spots. She’d tell us to run in with the bill and the cheque and to “make sure we got it stamped”. I’d been charged with executing an errand! I felt so grown up and important! Ah the good ol’ days. Mind you these were also the good ol’ days when at 10 years of age, you could buy your Grandmother her cigarettes and lottery ticket and use the change to buy penny candies. It was the Wild West, before laws and when copper currency still ruled supreme. I miss the good ol’ days.
I remember getting to stay up late, bleary-eyed but excited to have won the privilege of accompanying my Mom to a Midnight Madness sale. I got new indoor sneakers that night AND a pair of jelly shoes, after getting my foot properly measured by that cold metal foot measurer thing. I had a size 10 in grade 5. Yep, Pontoon Boat Murphy. Those jelly shoes had to live in the garage because the off-gases from the plastic were literally intoxicating. See, the good ol’ days!
Sears is where I learned the term “intimates”. I don’t remember there ever being fancy bras or underwear. Thongs? No siree! Just your average, run of the mill, nude, full bottomed brief. Sensible, utilitarian and perfectly Catholic. Where am I going to buy panty hose now?? Not that I ever wear panty hose, but still! What if!?
In third year university, I got my first double bed. My Mom disapproved. A double bed might encourage a second person to join me. She reluctantly took me to Sears to buy a “Bed in a Bag”. Then she took me to church.
Every snowsuit I ever owned was from Sears. I worked at the YMCA as a lifeguard in high school. The chlorine ate through our Speedos like termites at a barn burning. The suits were all see-through within a matter of months. I was only allowed to buy one fancy Speedo a year, from Collegiate Sports. The rest were all from Sears. I doubled up bathing suits and wore two at once, to protect my modesty and my budget.
And the Clinique counter! The women who worked there looked so fancy with their full makeup and pencil drawn eyebrows, spritzing and spraying as you walked by. They represented the future of womanhood, ‘Someday, I’ll be a glamorous Clinique counter lady too”!
Lest we forget the Sears Catalogue! Oh the catalogue! It would arrive in the mail and you’d go through the toy section before Christmas, circling the things you desired, like an Easy Bake Oven and a Snoopy Sno Cone Maker. And when your order came in from the catalogue you’d go to the special upstairs order area and they’d fetch it from the magical ‘back’. It was all very secretive, like consumerist Mission Impossible.
There was that weird little watch repair area, and that weird little engraving area,( just in case you needed a plaque or an embossed baby rattle), and of course, the indestructible blue plastic Sears bags. In the mid 1990’s we got our very first car phone. It was one of those ginormous phones you had to plug into the lighter jack, with a huge antennae, that came with its own over the shoulder carrying case. My Mom was convinced that someone was going to steal it from our station wagon, so she would cleverly store it inside a blue Sears bag. Screw you burglars! You thought we were driving around with a bag full of seer-sucker housecoats and slouch socks! Joke’s on you!
I remember waiting, for what seemed like hours, for my Mom in a fitting room. You didn’t have to wait outside, you got to sit on the floor of the change room and watch her try on sweaters with collars already sewn into them. Save yourself a step ladies, it’s all about the illusion of a second shirt. #MomLogic. Man, I miss that stuff. That, that was good stuff.
If you say to your children now, “strike a Sears pose”, what in God’s name are they going to do? You might as well ask them to use the tracking button on the VCR. What’s the equivalent of a Sears pose now? An Instagram duck lip selfie? Ew. I just barfed in my Kardashian pout.
When I graduated from University, my teachers were on strike and the whole thing just felt anti-climactic, so I didn’t get graduation pictures taken. My Mom was furious at me. So she marched me down to Sears where they had a robe and mortar board in their prop pile, and I got my graduation picture taken so my Mom could carry it around in her wallet. Not on her phone. In her actual, hard copy wallet. When she died, a decade after I graduated, it was still there. In her wallet.
I miss Sears and I miss my Mom and I miss things that are real. I’m tired of virtual living. I don’t want to move so fast any more. I’m scared that closing Sears erases my Mom a little bit more. It’s like the Men In Black pen just erased some of my life. I want to sit on the floor of a carpeted fitting room, and try on a modest and unflattering blouse, and dig out a scotch mint from the bottom of a purse. In our constant pursuit of progress and convenience, we have to be careful not to erase it all. For the sake of aspiring Sears Moms everywhere, please, let’s not erase all the good stuff.