Memories of Mother

Harriet Rucki with her daughter, Forever Young writer Judith Rucki

Photo by Judith A. Rucki


My mother, Harriet Rucki, and I used to joke that our relationship was defined by shopping. If it were an Olympic event, we’d take all the medals.

It started when I was very young. Mother never drove, so we would take the bus downtown. Early on, our excursions centered on a tuna fish sandwich and a chocolate soda. Once I was fed, Mother could shop in peace.

As time moved along, we would go out dressed in our finest, right down to white gloves. Ladies did not venture onto Delaware Avenue unless they were appropriately turned out.

Once I learned to drive, we no longer had to walk to what had been the Thruway Plaza. Malls were within our reach. By the time the Walden Galleria Mall opened, we were veteran shoppers who could, as Mother would say, “do the Galleria, both floors, end-to-end, in heels.”

We had our routine down pat. We would get to a mall early, shop, have lunch, shop, stop for coffee, and then shop some more.

Tearooms were a great place to linger over a fancy salad or quiche and talk. And talk we did. Mother was always a great listener, non-judgmental, and full of encouragement.

Sometimes we might try on clothes that were nothing like what we would ordinarily wear. That was always good for a few laughs.

Over time, Mother’s wardrobe got updated. When I convinced her no one was wearing girdles anymore, she went along with the idea. Later she blamed me for her lack of stomach muscles.

Pants were an entirely different issue. After years of working as a “Rosie the Riveter,” Mother said she would never again wear pants. She refused to wear a pantsuit I bought for her. Then, one day, she put it on. I invited her to dinner and suggested as long as she was looking so modern, we sit at the bar and have a drink first. I expected an adamant, “Certainly not,” but she sat right down and ordered a Pink Lady.

My father never understood how we could be gone most of the day and come home with nothing more than a lipstick and a pair of tights. Shopping never was about the acquisition of goods as much as it was a chance for us to talk and laugh together.

I’d give anything for one more trip to the mall with Mother.


Judith Rucki is a frequent contributor to Forever Young.




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