She was my oldest and one of my dearest friends, almost a sister. We began our relationship as preschoolers living directly across the street from each other, and continued it in until she died a couple of years ago. She was kind, generous, bossy, annoying , loving, but above all, Lydia was a shopper, a Born to Shop, Shop 'til You Drop Shopper . There was nothing she liked better than a markdown rack or a once in a lifetime sale. With eyes aglow and wearing her sensible Easy Spirit" shoes, she marched into the store and disappeared into the overstocked rack of clothing, coming out only to catch her breath, check to see where I was, and dive in again.
Did I like shopping with her? Not always. Did I go shopping with her, often? Yes, of course! You see, Lydia and I shared a long time, old time friendship that spanned seventy years. This little hobby of hers started early on and became part of her personality.
She thought it a gift; I thought it an affliction.
In the beginning, we would try on the clothes we were shopping for as though we had time limits. And we did. We were young mothers with a couple of hours to spare. We usually shopped at night and with the stores closing at 9 P.M. we had about two or so hours. I swear there were times when Lydia put out the lights and turned the key in the lock in some of those stores—one more purchase—that was Lydia , closing bell or not.
After my husband died, it seemed more sensible for me to spend the night at her house. That way ,she said, we could get a good early start in the morning. But, we never got going until noon—ever!
And so it was that our notorious trips began. Into the store in daylight, out when the moon was high; in rain, sleet, snow, sunshine, Lydia began to hone her hobby into an art. No more trying on clothes. Pick it out, bring it home, try it on, and take it back. She and I were always ladened with bundles when we left the store.
And to make matters worse, she talked to everyone. While we were waiting for our merchandise, Lydia had found the name, nationality, blood type and all other pertinent information about the salesgirl and often offered suggestions to customers who were in line with us. There was no such thing as a "quick trip", but one plus to this situation was we laughed a lot. And, friend or not, I was not a part of her—take it back routine.
I recall a particular shopping spree before Lydia became a professional. It was a night trip to Filene's Mall.
Lydia was struggling to get into a size 14 dress, one of about eight we had in the dressing room and it seemed that there was a problem with fitting. Could it be the wrong size ?
Naturally, as we worked on this problem, we kept up a steady stream of chatter. Did I remember Maggie Reilly who lived at the end of our street? Of course I did. She was in primary school with me and sang "Blue Moon ", a popular love song of our day, from beginning to end in third grade. Well, Lydia heard that she had married and was living in a fabulous house in Belmont. No worries for her. Her husband was wealthy.
"I didn't know that," I said while tugging at another size 14 zipper.
"And," said Lydia, "I remember that she had a pretty face and a nice figure."
"She wore a school uniform like yours, Lydia. How could you tell about her figure ?"
"But Bet, You must remember her smile. It lit up her whole face. "
Well I didn't. But by this time we had exhausted our supply of size l4s and I was sent to get some 16s. Just as I was returning to the dressing room, arms loaded, a saleslady asked if I needed help. She was plump ,with clunky shoes, and looked vaguely familiar.
She obviously knew me. That was my maiden name. A closer look and I knew her.
"Maggie Reilly?" I replied?
She nodded and I said, "Wait til you see who is in this dressing room. Let's surprise her."
So I led the way and drew the curtain back. Lydia turned, clutching her slip, and gave a long scrutinizing look.
Maggie smiled, the smile that lit up her whole face. Only the years had changed it—
Lydia spoke directly to me. "Bet, she said, Get me the size 14 dresses again."
And I did.