“Through A Glass Darkly” column for Nov. 28, 2012

I shuffled behind my parents with complete disinterest until we got to the toy store.

Window shopping was a favorite pastime for my mother.

Different from the regular shopping for necessities, it was a family affair that occurred while stores were closed in the evenings or on Sunday afternoons.

We might do it in the spring or summer, but it took on special significance at this time of year.

I’d avoid stepping on cracks as we strolled and stopped at each shop window.

My father feigned interest as my mother pointed at the women’s dresses and hats on mannequins.

Dad would nod when we passed a men’s store window and my mother told him how good he would look in a particular suit or shirt.

He already had two suits and a couple of white shirts. He had no interest in getting more of either, since he seldom wore them anywhere but to church, funerals or weddings.

He had a few dress shirts from which to pick if we visited relatives or went to an inside movie.

If mom decided he needed another, it would be a Christmas or birthday gift, maybe even with a tie to match.

She lingered longer when we got to the display windows of the women’s shops or the ladies’ side of the department stores.

She’d also gaze into the jewelry store windows.

Those moments were mostly fantasy, but if she really liked something my father would make a mental note.

Later he would return to purchase it as a Christmas or birthday present. For mother, the two were on the same day, but Dad always gave her gifts for both.

We’d look at the boys’ coats unless I hadn’t grown enough to need a new one.

Mother would ask my opinion, which was usually met with a shrug.

Later, she would pick out the warmest one. Concentrating on toys, I wouldn’t appreciate the coat on Christmas morning, but it would feel good on the cold days of January.

As we moved from window to window my interest would perk up when we neared what I called the “toy store,” which was really a five and dime.

There I might point out several things I wanted, and my mom would press me to narrow them to one or two favorites.

Depending on when mom led us on our window-shopping trek, we might have already picked my big present out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Sometimes the selection came from the S&H Green Stamp catalog, depending on how many books my mother had managed to fill from grocery purchases.

Or we may make a return trip to one or more of the stores to look at the full stock or to touch and ask questions about an item we had seen in the display window.

At that point, I might get sent away to “look at things” while she put my present on layaway.

Bob Anderson welcomes comments to banderson@theadvocate.com.