who knew old navy was a house of horrors?

Written November 15, 2015

I went shopping two days ago with Asher. It seems I’m on a never-ending quest for everyday jeans, since that’s my wardrobe…every day. Dropping Asher off at kindergarten? Jeans. Nannying? Jeans. Coffee with a friend? Errands? Writer’s group? Jeans jeans jeans. We were waiting for work to be finished on our car so we basically killed time running errands in the loaner, not wanting to go all the way home when we’d be called back any time. We went to Krispy Kreme for a special mid-afternoon treat. And then to Old Navy in hopes that the roof would hinge open, and a ray from the heavens would shine onto my perfect jeans that fit like a comfortable glove.

The jeans shopping went fine. There was a decent sale and selection, and I settled on a pair I like. Not heavens-parting-perfect, but good enough. Asher was reasonably cooperative to allow me to get my necessary item picked out and even tried on, so after that chore we had time to browse around the store.

Brian’s latest quest is casual-dressy shirts (is that a thing?) that he can wear out. Out for a date night, out to dinner with friends, out to a friends’ house, maybe even suitable for work. But being in the men’s section was also loaded. Loaded to the brim with memories of picking up things for Kade. Though I hadn’t been to Old Navy all that recently, it’s been a favorite place of mine in all his years of growing up.

We strolled our cart past boxers, socks, PJ bottoms, t-shirts. The basics, as well as the more fun stuff: shirts, flannels (twist a dagger in my heart, they had nice prints of soft and bright flannels! I would have totally looked for his size: Large, XL, or XXL, depending on which magnitude of over-sized he was in to at the time).

I was hit with an almost primitive urge to know what he needed and stock him up. Instantaneously I got a jolt of: Oh my gosh, why has it been so long since I’ve bought these necessities for Kade?! I need to find out what he’s low on! I wanted to call him. “Kade, there’s a great sale at Old Navy. Can you use any shirts? Flannels, or those thermal ones with a few buttons at the top? They have some nice colors right now. How are you doing on socks? Could you use a hoodie? Do you have something warm to wear outside?”

It was an old familiar maternal feeling being triggered that logic didn’t seem to turn off. Being sure he had enough. Socks? Boxers? T-shirts? I felt it. I knew he was gone, and had no need for clothing, and still I felt it. My brain kept going back to it. What does he need? What is he low on?

I could not cry and let loose in Old Navy, so I plastered on a smile, or at least a shopping face. I even played a short game of fast-walking tag because Asher asked me to, he’d been shopping for a long time, and no one else was in that section. But I was feeling sad, so sad. So tangibly, soft flannel, teal-blue thermal crew neck with flecks that would bring out his brown eyes, sad.

No, I couldn’t let loose and cry then, but I am now. Why some things are such triggers and others are not, I can’t figure out. Why some memories are so sensitive and others are not, is a mystery. I now feel less selfish about the clothes that I buy for myself vs. Brian, though. I didn’t put words or logic to it before, but the men’s section is a sad, longing place for me to be. Two days ago it was beyond a wistful place. It was a maternal, primal, compulsion-to-provide-for-my-son place. I knew he didn’t need the clothes, but the hard-wired memories of clothing him all of his life haven’t died. (What’s a word between memory and feeling? More than a memory, and entering into the realm of an emotional, and even physical, feeling. We need to find a word for that.)

Queue the angry part: I swear, I get sick of mourning every last piece of my life with Kade. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a life-time thing, reliving each tiny piece as it presents itself. They all get re-examined, one by one, as I live my life: each bit that made up the mosaic of our lives together.

shooting star mosaic

Queue the questioning part: The men’s department was another part of that mosaic. Will it ever be done? Will the last piece, one day be placed, and mosaic be finished? I doubt it, because then another will disclose itself in a slightly different way. Two days ago it was boxers and socks at Old Navy. Maybe another day it will be skate shoes at BC Surf and Sport. I sure get tired of the mourning and the remembering and even the honoring.

Queue the wishing part: I wish a trip to Old Navy could be a simple matter of stocking stuffing (Yay, penguin boxers!), or checking boxes off my Christmas list (Gee, Mom, thanks for my thousandth flannel!).


Kade’s 999th flannel

5 thoughts on “who knew old navy was a house of horrors?

  1. Oh my gosh… I go through this as well… and what really boggles my mind is how little things… like shopping… “make us temporarily forget” … and then we are forced to remind ourselves of our nightmare. At least that’s how I see it.
    BTW… I bought my Luis the exact same flannel that Kade is holding in the picture….


  2. Beautifully written Jenny. We just never know where those triggers are hiding. For me this year, it’s the Christmas tree. Lovely as it is, it holds so many memories that get me choked up.


  3. Jenny, I FELT what you were experiencing – that sudden, unexpected stab of realization. So beautifully written, so transparent, so touching. I hope your next trip to Old Navy might bring a smile to your face as you remember sweet memories shopping for Kade and that those memories overshadow your missing him in that moment. Hugs to you!


  4. Gosh Jenny! I am sure you never know when, who, or what will trigger memories, etc. I cannot imagine the pain you go thru each day. Please know you and all of your family are much loved!


  5. What a gorgeous mosaic! I cannot imagine the sadness and pain you go through daily, Jenny. How difficult too not knowing what may trigger memories, some happy, some sad. Please know you and your whole family are much loved!


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