mother was passionate about shopping. She’s gone now but I
remember she shopped everywhere she went and anytime. Garage sales,
department stores, grocery stores (she loved coupons), drug stores,
the mall, craft fairs, boutiques, at home or on vacation. In her day
there was no online shopping. She loved the thrill of discovering a
bargain. Shopping with her was always an experience. Sometimes it was
fun like a garage sale/thrift store treasure hunt. Over the years
there were many great finds.
Mom Shops Moscow
Copyright 2022 by Janis LeForge
Photo of Janis.
has both surprised and embarrassed me while shopping. Once I was
witness to her bend in half, back and forth until it broke, her
Goldblatts credit card in front of a shocked clerk. I don’t
remember exactly why she was mad. She did inform the dumbstruck woman
that she would not be shopping in their store ever again. I wonder,
was this the first nail in the coffin for the now defunct and
story is about a shopping adventure we had in Moscow, Russia in May
1999. I was drafted to accompany my mother to replace her friend
Shirley who had a stroke just weeks before their planned departure.
The two of them had booked a non-refundable long anticipated eleven-
day river cruise of Russia. My grandparents were Russian immigrants
who always told fascinating stories about the old country, I was
curious to see some of the places they raved about, so I agreed to go
in Shirley’s place.
forward to Moscow, Russia. This particular day our tour group was on
an outing to see the Kremlin, the Moscow Metro (subway) system and
Red Square. We followed our guide Rita by watching for her unopened
umbrella raised high above her head. It was like daycare for senior
Moscow Metro is called “The Palace of the People”. It was
built to impress. The stations have different decorations: murals, or
mosaics, or bas-reliefs and huge chandeliers- just magnificent. There
are twelve transit lines around and through a large circle covering
the city. Our boat was docked on the river at the end of the green
in Red Square we saw St. Basils Cathedral with its colorful spires
and nine domes, Lenin’s mausoleum, and a huge building that was
not on our tour. It was called “GUM” department store.
Rita claimed it was the largest department store in the world. This
statement was like waving a red cape in front of a bull. At that
moment my mother became determined to pay it a visit. She was not
leaving Moscow without shopping at “GUM”.
to this point on the cruise the shopping had been limited. There was
a small gift shop on the boat. It had already been the source of a
few souvenirs, a Russian(nesting) Matryoshka doll and a black lacquer
box with a fairy tale painted on the lid. Near some of our stops
along the river there were artists with small paintings and some
rustic crafts for sale. There was very little that excited her
shopping genes. I purchased two watercolors that now hang over my
following day our group was scheduled to tour some churches. Rita was
somehow convinced (or paid) by my mother that we could find our own
way to Red Square and “GUM”.
not sure how, but we got the OK.
should note: I had taken freshman year Russian language class (over
30 years before this trip) and my mother claimed she could understand
(but not speak) Russian from listening to her parents. As fate would
have it, we both failed in all attempts to read or speak Russian much
more than “yes” “no” or “thank you”.
Anyway, a determined shopper could not be stopped in her quest by
mere lack of language skills.
managed to get to Red Square and “GUM” with no problems.
We felt so proud of ourselves. The architecture of “GUM”
was truly grand. Built in 1890 – 1893 it is steel framework
with a glass roof. Unfortunately, that was as remarkable as it got.
It was all down-hill from there. The inside was not like any
department store we had ever seen. It was more like a flea market
with hundreds of small little shops. One stall might offer scarves
and another toilet paper. There were long lines of people waiting to
buy everyday essentials. There was nothing to interest a tourist-not
even a postcard. We were disappointed to say the least.
headed back to our boat empty handed. Oh no! We did not realize there
were four Metro stations on Red Square. In our haste to get to “GUM”
we had not made note of where we got off the Metro. Which station
took us to where our boat was docked? We had a map of the Metro
system with our stop circled, but we were not able to decipher it. We
had a 1 in 4 chance of picking the right station. We got on where we
thought it looked familiar. After riding for some time and seeming to
be heading out of the city, we got off. We were lost in a crowd at an
unfamiliar station. It was almost time to panic.
stood out in the drab sea of humanity who were all dressed in black,
grey, or brown clothing. My mother was wearing a pink windbreaker and
me a red sweater. There was no in person station information booth or
ticket taker in sight. We tried holding up our map and pointing to
where we were trying to go. People just ignored us and hustled bye to
their own destinations. We were starting to question the reason for
our predicament. Did we really need to shop at the risk of getting
lost, missing our boat, possibly getting robbed or killed? We started
to turn on each other. Whose brilliant idea was this anyway?
out of the masses like the calvary coming to the rescue, came four
young boys (14 or 15 years old). They were dressed in navy and white
what looked like military or school uniforms. They were all smiling
and acting friendly. They greeted us with a cheery “Hello
showed them our map and they motioned for us to follow them. Mom and
I looked at each other, should we? We were desperate. We let them
guide us. My heart was pounding. Where were they leading us? The trip
back was nerve wracking, we changed trains twice and just kept up
with the boys on blind faith. They eventually got us to the station
near our boat. We were so
We tried to reward them for their kindness, but they refused the
money we offered and just waved goodbye. Maybe they were the Russian
version of Boy Scouts.
started walking down the dock towards our boat. There were three or
four other boats like ours lined up along the pier. Since her
shopping itch had not been properly scratched, my mother had a new
idea. Perhaps one of these other boats had a different selection of
wares in their gift shop! We were in sight of our boat just a few
blocks away. What could the harm be (now that we were safe) of
checking out another gift shop? This particular boat was loaded with
German tourists. We were just meandering around the gift shop when we
noticed the boat seemed to be moving. I rushed up on deck just in
time to see we were pulling away from the dock. My mother caught up
with me and we began to shout in English and gesture towards the
shore, the crew understood we were on the wrong boat. They reversed
their direction and with much grumbling and arm waving brought us
back to the dock. We felt like very naughty children.
night at dinner when other folks from our tour quizzed us about where
we had been all day, we just replied “shopping”.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Janis' story list and biography
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