Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 9/3/2009 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - The Big Deal

Martha's Big Adventure -- The Big Deal

By Martha Randolph Carr

My mother, Leontine or Tina for short, is a great bargain hunter. That's nothing special. There are legions of women out there, millions of them reading this column, who could also claim that title.

However, my mother is also painfully shy and often very reluctant to approach someone to ask for help. Imagine finding the bargain if it's tough to join in the conversation. I'll tell you up front I still don't know how she pulled off this neat trick.

As a child in the '60's before there was such a thing as discount malls I would find myself standing in the middle of some warehouse trying on marked-down cashmere thinking my mother had some weird and very handy magical abilities.

The shyness though kept her from reaching out a lot of the time. People had to approach her first and would then find out she had hidden talents. This lead to a lot of waiting around for my mother.

I don't know that I've ever appreciated the way she can sit patiently for hours waiting for news, waiting for someone to arrive, waiting for someone to finish their moment in the limelight.

For every person standing on a stage feeling warmed by the momentary adoration there has to be someone sitting in the seats below willing to watch the performance. Often that has been my mother who showed up dutifully and at times alone at all of my recitals, even though she inevitably didn't know anyone else in the audience.

When I was small the gift eluded me and I didn't truly value the effort that was being put forth. I wanted my mother to be more out-going, more like my garrulous father whose voice could be heard a block away and who everyone openly admired.

I really wanted to discount any traits we had in common because I saw how much my mother hugged the edges of a conversation. I was too afraid that somewhere in me lay the same possibilities and so I never looked for the treasures. That is, except for the bargain hunting.

This has led me once again to the truth that within every characteristic there is both a flaw and a blessing.

The blessing is probably that Mom can see the small details in anything and she has been known to take the time and look further to see the beauty as well. The consistent workmanship my mother put into embroidering the edge of a long cape or knitting complicated cables is still the best I've ever seen. This I noticed but again I didn't really appreciate all of the beautiful handiwork.

I really took note of the bargain hunting though because of how animated my mother would suddenly become when closing in on a real deal. Here was an easy place for us to connect as mother and daughter.

There are moments for all of us when we are in our element and it's finally easier to be bright and cheery. Inevitably for me it's when I talk about my son, Louie.

That is another trait I share with my mother who can work into a short conversation the highlights of each of her five children. Did you know my oldest sister is a bone surgeon or my only brother is a lawyer? If you've spent five minutes in my mother's company, you do.

There was the same look of joy when I was in high school and we were turning down a narrowing collection of alleys in the next county over till we stopped in a deserted parking lot and pounded on the door of a windowless building. A gruff-looking man slid open a large door and we stepped over the edge into a room filled with antique handmade office furniture in pristine condition that was priced to move. Mom had heard I needed a bookcase.

Really, the deal that was just aching to be noticed and enjoyed was standing right in front of me, quietly waiting for me to start first. It's taken me a little while but I see her standing there in her favorite color of pink with so much still to offer. More adventure to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr is the author of the novel, The Sitting Sisters. Martha can be found on Twitter at MarthaRandolph or email at or visit

© 2009 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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