Back-to-School-Shopping: Stop and Smell the Sale Racks

by Linda Sharp

I love this time of the year. I revel in the last hot rays of summer and swim the last few laps in a pool that will all too soon be wearing a cover of Autumn leaves. I look forward to the crispness that will begin to fill the air, the sweaters that can once again come out of hiding and the cellulite that may once again go into hiding. Yet, above and beyond anticipating the beauty of the Fall season, more and more often I find myself staring into space and daydreaming about . . . that big red circle on the calendar that indicates MY CHILDREN GO BACK TO SCHOOL! (Brief pause for happy dance.)

That's right, like a child who can barely sleep on Christmas Eve, my heart beats faster and my tummy tingles at the thought of escorting my lovely daughters into those hallowed halls of learning, kissing their little cheeks and then running like the wind for the door. Like a Senecot commercial, I shall leap into the air as my children-have-been-home-three-months-sanity-constipation is relieved!

However, there is a penance that must be done before I may emit those "I feel good" vibes. I must make the yearly trek to the stores for the ritual known as Back-To-School-Clothes-Shopping. These wonderful children, who have spent the summer months ensconced in little more than bathing suits and dirt, have all had the audacity to grow. Now, having three daughters means that the youngest holds the title of "Hand Me Down Queen", but my other daughters are polar opposites size-wise.

The 8-year-old is shaped like a stick of gum -- long and skinny. With legs that basically begin under her chin, she is destined for a career in women's basketball or modeling on the catwalks of Paris. The six year old suffers from the same malady I have bravely faced my entire life, that of being vertically challenged. OK, ok, we are both short. With less space to spread her innards, her tummy is not designed for those hand me downs labeled "Slim". So we pile into the mini-van and head out . . .

Entering the Mall this shopping season was almost surreal. Had I been a flower child in the 60's, I would have sworn I was suffering through a bad flashback. Rife with bell bottoms, tie dyes and peace signs, the only thing not bowing to decades old fashion mistakes was the music. From the speakers in every store came the blaring sounds of NSYNC, and the only thing saying "Bye, Bye, Bye" was the money in my wallet.

I had sworn when this whole hip hugger, wide bottomed, Peace, Love, Dollar Sign trend started up, that I would not be funding it. I firmly believe that the look was ridiculous thirty years ago, and has not improved by being dragged into the Millennium. However, I also remember my own childhood and the intense desire to dress like one's peers. I drove my parents crazy (short drive) insisting that I had to have alligators on my chest and Calvin Klein tattooed on my behind. At least these days, the "look" is what counts most, not the label. Which is why, after a full priced trip through one of the children's specialty stores, (we emerged with silver, yes silver, as in the-light-reflects-off-of-them bell bottoms), I walked us directly into JC Penney.

As we entered the kid's department, I cruised straight past the rows and rounders full of psychedelic fantasies and threw my body onto the racks marked, "Clearance". Breathing deeply, I held a tie dyed t-shirt to my nose and decided there is nothing like the smell of a freshly applied "50% off" sticker. Ahhhhhhhh, now, "I feel good!"

Copyright 2000 by Linda M. Sharp. Reprinted with permission. 
Linda Sharp is an internationally published humorist who writes regularly on the joyous and frustrating world of parenting. Her work appears across the Internet and wraps around the globe in parenting publications from Canada to Malaysia.
Linda is co-creator of the award winning website,
Sanity Central — A Time Out From Parenting! Located at, it is totally irreverent, hysterical and packed with enough laughs to brighten even the weariest of parents! As a mother of three children (four if you count her husband), she firmly believes that laughter IS the best medicine. She may be reached via email at