The Chico’s Connection
By Erika Hoffman
His freshman year, my son met a girl. At dinner one spring evening in the outskirts of Atlanta, after a long drive from North Carolina, his dad, sister and I were introduced to Jessica, a pretty girl with auburn hair and green eyes. I could tell our 18 year old son was in love. That night, our family stayed at his grandma’s home near downtown Atlanta. Although not much of a shopper, the next day, I acquiesced to my kids’ wishes to hang out at Perimeter Mall, an upscale shopping mecca that contains Chico’s, a clothing chain I frequent. (At Chico’s I’m only size three, which sounds petite until you learn that’s their largest size.)
At any rate, I was flipping through the sales rack absent-mindedly when my son Erik asked, “What are you looking for, Mom?”
“Nothing particular. Anything in size three – that’s not too bold, too frilly, too revealing and comes in black.”
“I’ll help,” he murmured and wandered off.
“And that’s on sale!” I hollered my addendum after him.
Soon, he returned holding a couple of hangers with black tops.
“Nope. They’re sleeveless. I want short sleeves,” I said, hardly glancing up. Erik set off again.
A few minutes later, he returned accompanied by a stylishly attired, middle-aged, Latina lady with a welcoming smile. She clasped her hands together and beamed at me very friendly. Erik stood behind her and said something, but often I don’t catch exactly what he says because he mumbles. (When I don’t understand him, he claims I need a hearing aid.) Anyway, I assumed that he’d brought this congenial salesclerk over to assist me. I barely nodded in her direction. “Oh thanks. But I’m just looking; killing time really. I don’t need any help,” I said.
She looked confused when I turned around. I continued to slide polyester skirts back and forth on the rack. The lady slipped away.
“Jeesh, Mom!” I heard my son’s voice, this time – loud and clear.
Startled, I peered up at his bulging eyes.
“What? I didn’t want to waste her time. I think they work on commission here. I probably won’t buy a thing.”
My son looked steamed. “You were so rude to Jessica’s mother!” he said.
“What?” I exclaimed.
“I introduced you to Jessica’s mom, and you were too involved browsing for shirts to even say hello.”
“That was Jessica’s mom!” He pointed to the dark- haired lady about to exit the store.
“Jessica’s mom works here?”
“NO! She was shopping here, a customer, just like you.”
“You knew she’d be here today?”
Horrified, I dropped the apparel and ran to grab her before she departed.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, looking her squarely in the face. “My son mumbles. I didn’t hear him say you’re Jessica’s mom.”
“It’s ok,” she said, and smiled sweetly. “I’m glad for us to meet – finally.”
“Me too. What a bizarre coincidence we’re both here!”
“I like Chico’s,” she said. “I come often.”
“It’s my favorite store,” I said smiling back.
Eight years later, she and I together walked up the altar’s steps, lit candles and smiled. We were dressed in long gowns, standing in front of guests at The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Peachtree Street, Atlanta, Georgia. The occasion? Her daughter Jessica was getting married! And, likewise was my son, Erik.
On this day being in the same place at the same time for Jess’s mom and me was no magical coincidence! It had been well planned for a year.
About this writer
- Erika Hoffman views most travel experiences as educational experiences and sometimes the lessons learned are revelations about oneself.
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