A Miracle Mile Miracle

By Diane Stark

“I’m ditching school tomorrow,” I announced proudly to my friends at the lunch table in our high school’s cafeteria.

Their eyes grew wide, and who could blame them? This was big news. My friends and I were part of the Honor Society Set. Not exactly the kids who skipped school.

“You are?” One friend asked. “That’s so cool!”

Another friend was clearly impressed. “Aren’t you worried about getting in trouble?”

Before I could answer, my best friend Bridgette piped up. “She can’t get in trouble. Her mom is going to call in and tell the school she’s sick, even though she’s not.” She rolled her eyes and added, “They’re going shopping.”

“Oh, well, that’s a different story,” my friends said. “Skipping school with your parents’ permission hardly even counts as ditching.”

The truth was out and my cool factor had taken a serious nose dive, but I didn’t care.

I shrugged and grinned. “That might well be true,” I said, “but the fact remains that while you all are taking an algebra test tomorrow, I will be maxing out my mom’s credit card on the Miracle Mile.”

My friends groaned, but I knew that deep down they were envious of my Mom-approved day off from school.

Shopping with one’s mother on a school day might not be as cool as ditching class for more nefarious purposes, but in my book, it was just as much fun. And better still, our shopping day was an annual event.

My mom worked at the library in our small town, and every November the library rented a charter bus and drove it to the Miracle Mile in downtown Chicago. The trip’s timing was especially fortunate for me, a teenage clothes horse with a mid-November birthday. This meant that I could have almost anything I wanted on the trip, and Mom would give it to me as a birthday present. If I found too much stuff, Mom would just hold some back for Christmas.

It was the one day of the year when the answer was always “yes.”

On the two-hour bus ride to the Miracle Mile, Mom and I chatted and made our plan of action for the day. Mom always asked if there was anything special I wanted, and she made finding that item a priority. This was back when “Guess” jeans were a must-have item for anyone who was trying to look exactly like everyone else. (And that’s what middle school was all about.)

This was also back before the “cool” brands came in children’s sizes. Nowadays, my daughters and I just pop into Justice for all of their must-have items. But back then, “Guess” jeans started in a 24 inch waist.

And for me, a 13-year-old who looked about nine-and-a-half, finding cool clothes that fit was challenging, to say the least. But Mom was not to be deterred. On those shopping trips, Mom and I found many of my most desired items. I wore them to school proudly – and always with a belt. Luckily for me, wearing jeans rolled up was all the rage in those days.

Although I was tiny, I had the same clothes as my classmates. At the time, it felt like a miracle.

The shopping was great, and the food was fun too. We always went to this deli that named their sandwiches after important people in Chicago. Mom and I always ordered the Hammy Sosa with waffle fries. We split the sandwich so we had room for two of their giant hot fudge sundaes, whose clever name escapes me now, nearly 20 years later.

These shopping trips were an annual thing for Mom and me throughout my middle school and high school years. One year, when it was time to book the trip, Mom and I were barely speaking. Long story short, Mom didn’t like my boyfriend at the time. (It was all her fault. She acted as though one motorcycle ride through the church auditorium made him a bad guy or something. I tried to tell her he was just misunderstood, but she was so unreasonable about the whole thing…)

Anyway, I liked the guy, and Mom didn’t. We tried to develop an “agree to disagree” relationship, but it didn’t seem to work. I was determined to point out my beau’s positive attributes, but Mom just couldn’t see past his black leather jacket and motorcycle. (Although the black tire marks in the church sanctuary were really the crux of the problem.)

Despite our strained relationship, I knew that missing the shopping trip was not an option. It was just too special and too much fun.

And the truth was that I missed Mom. Not that I would have admitted it.

During the bus ride that year, Mom and I talked about our shopping plans, but little else. We both seemed to be avoiding the motorcycle-riding elephant in the room. But that day, Mom bought a Harley Davidson t-shirt for my boyfriend.

“It’s a Christmas present,” she said with a shrug and a small smile.

But to me, it seemed like a miracle. Mom was accepting my guy. Despite her feelings about him, she was acknowledging that I was growing up and was entitled to make my own choice. (Never mind that “my choice” dumped me sometime around January 3.)

Mom and I haven’t shopped on Miracle Mile in many years. She still has opinions about my choices, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned to listen to her advice. She’s smarter now…or maybe I am.

Mom and I bargain shop these days, hitting the outlet malls for kids’ clothes and kitchen gadgets. The days still include lots of girl talk – and giant hot fudge sundaes.

Those Miracle Mile shopping days are some of my best childhood memories. Somewhere along the way, Mom became more than just my mom. She became my friend.

And that, I think, was the best miracle of all.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “A Miracle Mile Miracle”

  1. Maura Troy says:

    What a sweet story. It reminded me of so many shopping trips with my own mother. Those were always special days – although I never got to cut school for them. LOL! :)

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