Shopping is in my genes. It is a gene that has been passed down for generations, a gene that originated with my grandma – the supreme gift giver.
A mother of five children and a grandmother to ten grandchildren, Mamie (or Pawpaw as I called her), worked hard every day of her life. Her two long-term jobs involved working in a restaurant as a hat check girl and at a mail order company. She took a “break” in between them to raise five kids. Then, even after her children had children, she worked at McDonald’s and as a teacher. She never had a credit card or a wallet, instead carrying cash in a rubber band. True to her minimalist nature, she bought only what was needed for herself, spending the rest of her hard-earned dollars on her family.
Having a large family gave her pride and joy. Typically purchasing electronics, she paid in cash and bargained for ten of everything for each of her grandchildren. As my mom says, “Whether or not you wanted it, or were the right age, you got one.”
All of her grandchildren were routinely spoiled with the latest gadgets: tiny radios, tiny TVs (battery-operated with an antenna), and consoles like Atari and Nintendo. Memorable gifts from grandma for my brother Derek included the first-ever video camcorder and the first portable CD player. Notable gifts for me included a custom-made Cabbage Patch doll (ones with Asian features were not sold in stores), the talking doll Cricket, and storytelling dolls: Mother Goose, Teddy Ruxpin, and his friend Grubby.
All of these items are considered vintage now, but at the time, they were state-of-the-art. Grandma loved being on the edge of the newest technology, as much as she loved pampering her loved ones.
Visits to Grandma’s home always included a nap, followed by a trip to the toy store. It was difficult to rest, knowing all these toys awaited me. Full of energy and excitement, I figured the nap was a non-elective prerequisite for having unbridled restraint in the store later. At the toy store, I could have anything I wanted. Subsequently, each trip ended with a shopping cart brimming with toys – paid for by Grandma.
Fortunately, I can continue my grandma’s legacy by shopping to my heart’s content in Beijing; and you can, too. If you’re a mom-to-be,
stock up on baby items and maternity wares. For toddlers, teens, and every age in between, pick up some threads at one of the city’s most fashionable clothing shops. And if you’re stumped on what to get for that special someone, let us guide you to the perfect birthday present. For everything else, there is the Chinese-only shopping site Taobao.
When my extended family gets together and reminisces about Grandma, we all agree that she would have loved this modern age. From iPhones to iPods, Xbox to PlayStation 3, and 3D TVs to Blue-ray DVD players, we would have them all – courtesy of our generous, gadget-loving grandma. Because of my grandma, her love of shopping, and her daughter who also loves shopping (though my mom denies it), I really was the girl who had everything; and I am forever grateful for it.