A couple of weeks before my book came out, my fellas and I had just finished eating a little Mexican food when I said, “Hey. I know what we can do next. I need to run in Steinmart to look for a couple of shirts for book signing stuff, so maybe y’all could drop me off there and then hang out at the bookstore for a little while.” They agreed that the plan was full of win, mainly because they would not be subjected to shopping with me, a task that is apparently – at least for them – only slightly less enjoyable than a attending a four-hour poetry reading where someone serves them dainty portions of cold food.
I try not to take offense. I know in my heart of hearts that I am a delightful shopper. It’s just that my tendency to be a thorough shopper pretty much drives them crazy.
So we hopped in the car and made the trip over to the Steinmarts. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and I remember thinking that the crowd seemed a little sparse for a Friday night. However, I chalked that up to good shopping fortune, and as I was grabbing my purse before I got out of the car, David mentioned that it looked like there were some signs hanging on the front entrance.
I looked toward the doors, and sure enough, I spotted the signs. And then I noticed that there didn’t seem to be anyone inside the store. So I asked D to drive a little closer, and as we approached the sidewalk in front of the store, I started to worry that something at my Steinmarts had gone horribly awry.
Alex and I jumped out of the car (I think he felt like he had happened upon a mystery), and I promise you that I felt like a character in some sort of post-apocalyptic disaster movie as we walked up to the doors. I was stunned as much as anything else, and when I was finally able to read the signs, I felt a little bit like Tea Leoni staring out at the ocean in Deep Impact. You know, the ocean that had just been hit by a comet that was going to DESTROY THE WORLD.
(I can’t imagine why the men in my life don’t enjoy shopping with me.)
(I am very level-headed and always maintain such a healthy perspective!)
Here’s what the signs said:
It was all so sudden. So unexpected. And, you know, not to be selfish or anything, but given the fact that I had some SPECIFIC CLOTHING NEEDS for book stuff, the timing was not at all convenient.
The next week I made a trip to a Steinmart in another part of town, and I was fascinated by the differences. Most of the women in the store were probably somebody’s Martha or somebody’s Sissie – you could just tell that it was a store that women liked to visit after they got their hair fixed at the beauty parlor. I later told Melanie that as far as the clothing selection was concerned, I had never in my life seen such an impressive array of petite floral club shirts. Mel and I eventually pieced together a loose (and possibly unreliable) theory that the Steinmarts must target different demographics in different stores, and the demographic for that particular store was People Who Go On Lots of Cruises. And if the sheer volume of three-piece, dressy suits was any indication, they’re also People Who Still Wear Hose To Church. I could’ve stayed there and people-watched all day.
Eventually I decided to go to couple of department stores to find what I was looking for. It was sad, though, because I’m used to Steinmart being my go-to in times of fashion need. For thirteen years my Steinmart and I have weathered all manner of fashion-related storms, and if we made it through 2001 and 2002, when I owned ALL the floral capri pants, then surely Steinmart wouldn’t desert me right here in 2013 when I am trying to thoughtfully and methodically evaluate all the colored denim – not to mention the maxi dresses – that the good Lord hath provided. Right?
But alas, my favorite Steinmart remained closed. I sort of pieced together that there must have been trouble with the store’s physical structure (I say that like I launched an in-depth investigation, but the fact that there was yellow KEEP AWAY tape running along one side of the building, along with some huge steel beams braced against the outer wall – well, 2 + 2, etc.). And while I know that what I’m about to tell you may speak to a certain (unhealthy?) level of emotional attachment, I missed the people who worked there. There are six or seven people who have been at that store since D and I moved here in 2000, and thirteen years of Steinmart shopping will forge some bonds. No doubt out it.
A couple of weeks ago Alex and I noticed that there was some activity in an empty storefront that’s in the same shopping center as our Steinmart. We could see that people were working on the floors and walls inside, so I crossed my fingers that a new Steinmart day was about to dawn. And sure enough, when Alex and I were running errands earlier today, I saw a lot of cars in front of what used to be a Circuit City. So we turned into the shopping center, rounded the corner – and then I squealed.
Seriously. I squealed.
I squealed like I was a twelve year-old who had just won backstage passes for a Taylor Swift concert. WITH A SPECIAL APPEARANCE BY ONE DIRECTION, Y’ALL.
Oh, it was a sweet, sweet reunion. However, I may have scared Elizabeth, who works at the Customer Service register, when I walked in and said, “OH MY WORD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW I’VE MISSED Y’ALL WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED.” Once we were all caught up, I made a loop around the store and visited with some of the ladies who work there, and after about fifteen minutes, I realized that I might need to REIN IN THE ENTHUSIASM, GLADYS. I mean, I don’t think I left anybody needing a sedative or anything like that, but there were a couple of people who may have looked a little startled.
To my credit, I didn’t hug anyone. Clearly I exercised remarkable restraint.
So. We are just as happy as we can be around here. Or at least I am. Because truth be told, nobody else in this house is all that concerned with the state of the Steinmarts. But I am so tickled that it is back, and it is open, and even better, it is home to an extensive collection of maxi dresses.
Hallelujah. And also amen.