Marilee blows out candles on a birthday cake. Her young cousin stands next to her.

Why a Failed Shopping Expedition Was Still a Great Birthday Present

Marilee turned 11 last Sunday. We drove to Brooklyn early to meet her new cousin, and we had already planned to see Wicked on Broadway with tickets that we had saved from March of 2020. I decided to extend the celebration with her by staying for the night, just the two of us, and going shopping together on 5th Avenue.

Let me pause for a moment to say that I have never purchased anything other than food and tickets for shows in New York (other than one trip to the garment district in 8th grade where I bought a flimsy jumper for $4). I don’t like shopping in general. I don’t particularly care about clothes. And I get intimidated by big fancy stores. 

Marilee, on the other hand, loves fashion. The thought of a shopping extravaganza (even on a budget) was dreamy to her. I wanted to honor who she is and celebrate her life with a mother-daughter trip to whatever stores she wanted.

We headed to Abercrombie at 10am. She found one shirt that she liked. They were out of her size in everything else. So we moved on to Hollister, which didn’t open until 11. Same with Lulu Lemon and Urban Outfitters and the Vans store and H&M. So we traipsed up and down 5th Avenue for an hour, only to once again find a limited supply of clothing for her age group. We peeked inside Saks and giggled at the $600 puffy coat for a toddler. She ended up buying one pair of leggings. 

It couldn’t have been more disappointing, from a shopping perspective. As we were walking back to the hotel, she took my hand and gave it a squeeze and said thank you. 

Even a failed shopping expedition can be a way of saying I love you. I see you. I love who you are. I want to be with you where you want to be. 

We took the train back to Connecticut, and on the way home she asked if we could pop in to TJ Maxx. She came home thrilled with another shirt, a hairbrush, some exfoliating cloths for the shower, a new laundry basket, a makeup bag, a mug, and a plaque that says Be Kind. 

It was a great day. Happy Birthday, Marilee!

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