The concepts of big, bigger, and biggest always entranced Mother. She loved buying massive amounts of potatoes, oatmeal, onions and other items at the grocery store. When chains like Sam’s Club and Big Lots started franchises in her area, she was ecstatic. Never had she seen such shopping nirvana.
And never mind that she would not be able to use the voluminous quantities she purchased before they mildewed, spoiled, or went stale or rotten, or otherwise perished. It was one of her compulsions. Like a gambling addict playing three slot machines at once, or a skid row alcoholic drinking Sterno, Mother’s eyes glazed over as she pursued the “big deal” of buying and then attempting to consume mass quantities. And of course, shopping for deals in volume was far from her only addictive tendency.
Her acquisition strategy applied to lots of things. Our mother would buy cheap pencils because they came in such a big quantity. The idea of quality over quantity escaped her completely. If one was good then three were better, no matter if they were needed or would be used. She was especially taken with cheap clothing for my sister Abby and me. One school year she dragged us to this store where they sold shorts sets for 88 cents. Yes, that’s right, less than a dollar! My sister and I got two shorts sets a piece and we were delighted. We were happy because they were brand spanking new, and therefore in keeping with modern fashion at the time. This was a rare departure from our usual school attire of hand-me-down clothing that was often stained, ill-fitting, and outdated.
The fact we were not allowed to wear shorts to school and the outfits were purchased shortly before school started made no difference to Mother. They were a bargain. Away we went with shorts sets that were so poorly-made they barely lasted through the first wash.
Naturally it was Abby’s and my fault that the outfits did not exactly work out for the best. Somehow we were to blame for the school’s dress code, which had been included in the orientation given to the parents before the school year began. And of course, it was our fault that the outfits were so flimsy as to not survive a few wash cycles. Mother was never one to take the blame for anything.
The phrase “You get what you pay for” was so appropriate in such cases, but you dare not mention this to Mother. She also took quantity over quality when it came to dishing out punishment.