December 23 and 24: shop around the clock

In the mid- to late 1980s I remember a retro department store commercial that aired around Christmas using the song by Bill Haley & The Comets, Rock Around The Clock (which, coincidentally, came out in 1955, the year my Mom was born) to advertise last-minute shopping hours. I suspect that's what my Mom was up to on December 23 and 24 in 1988, when she returned to "the Exchange" and spent $22 on "Radio, T.V.", and another $19.95 at the Stars & Stripes bookstore on Christmas eve.

I, too, did some last-minute shopping (although I have to confess I kind of hate shopping and while I love the idea of supporting local businesses, try to do most of it online). On Friday, I took my daughter to Walgreen's so she could pick out a gift for her brother (and picked up a few other things as well). On Saturday, we braved the Grand Lake area of Oakland (nice weather, day before Christmas, Saturday farmer's market!) to buy a book for my mother-in-law at Walden Pond books. Unfortunately, I don't have proof of that purchase as I've since misplaced the receipt. But spend roughly twenty bucks at a bookstore on Christmas eve, like my Mom 28 years before, I did.

I don't have any dated ephemera between Christmas eve and December 28th, the day she died, but I have at least one more post in this series that I'll get to soon to wrap up this writing experiment.


December 22: cheese, cheese, and more cheese

My Mom liked cheese. In fact, in general, from what I remember, she quite liked dairy: cheese, butter, ice cream. I remember getting government cheese when we lived in Reno, Nevada, and, later, generous bowls of cookies & cream.

On December 22, 1988, my Mom went to the "commissary" - that's a grocery store for anyone who hasn't spent much time on a military base. Looking at what she bought (lots of cheese, pepperoni, and olives, among a few other items), I can only imagine she was getting ingredients for our traditional Christmas eve pizza dinner. It's curious that she paid the $31.37 tab with a $35 check, getting $3.63 back in cash. I wonder how she spent $3.63?

We will likely order pizza takeout again this year (carrying on that Christmas eve tradition of holiday lights, followed by pizza, each kid then opening one gift which always just happens to be pajamas), so while I went to Safeway I didn't buy cheese and pepperoni. I went in for our traditional Christmas morning "Grands" cinnamon rolls (once again not feeling up to attempting homemade cinnamon rolls this year) but came out with a few additional items: chocolate chips to make more cookies to leave out for Santa, ice cream to accompany Christmas day dessert, strawberries by request of the 3 year old who accompanied me, and flowers for the table. At the store, I couldn't recall exactly how much my Mom had spent on this day 28 years ago, but I was pretty close.

(Can you believe Miracle Whip was only $1.11 back then?)


December 16: doodles & dental care

On this day in 1988, my Mom went to what we, living on a military base overseas, called "the exchange." The AAFES Main Store was basically our one-stop solution for non-grocery items, like a small department store.

She bought a variety of things there that evening, including "doodles", "dental care", hair accessories, and girl's clothes, undoubtedly some of which were Christmas presents nine days later. She spent $83.30 and paid by check.

I, on the other hand, with no "AAFES Main Store" to shop at, went to Costco. I picked up an item I'd ordered from the photo department, then spent a little over $50 on holiday-related merchandise.

The only way I was able to go to Costco on a Friday afternoon is because I'd taken that day off to attend holiday parties at each kid's school, one in the morning, the other in the late afternoon. The last couple of years since I went back to work full-time, my work-life balance, as they say, pretty cushy in comparison, have given me new perspective on remembering my Mom, she working sometimes more than one full-time job (when she was a single parent), while juggling the needs of two children, running holiday errands after 8 p.m. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have proven most challenging for me as a full-time, working-outside-the-home parent, when so many additional factors are added to what is essentially a math equation that already rarely works out each week. These kinds of weeks were her last.


Who is Amanda Fisher?

I'm starting a new project today (art, writing, investigative, all of the above?), retracing a few of my mother's steps during her final few weeks of life, as evidenced by receipts (and other pieces of ephemera) found in her wallet when she died on December 28, 1988, the wallet serving as a kind of time capsule from almost 28 years ago, having traveled over 5,600 miles (we lived on Rhein Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany at the time).

On December 8, 1988, she went to the post office. Looks like she mailed four packages, most likely back to "the States", probably to one or both sets of parents/grandparents and one or more of her four sisters. She spent $54.71.

So today, while I didn't have any packages to send (yet), I too went to the post office and spent $56.40  (as close as I could get to $54.71 in first class holiday stamps).

But who is Amanda Fisher?