By Hannah Reich Berman

Some things don’t work out quite the way we expect that they will. I have recently discovered that “payback” is one of them.

When my children were youngsters, one of my daughters was a horror to shop for. She never liked a single gift that she received if the gift was an article of clothes. And she never liked a single thing that I brought home for her. Actually, it wasn’t only shopping for her that was difficult; it was just as impossible to shop with her. Even when I took her along, she never liked what the stores had to offer. It used to drive me crazy. On countless shopping excursions, I said, “Just wait until you’re a mother. I hope you get a daughter just like yourself. Then you’ll know what this is like for me.”

When I shopped with or for my other children I would try to stay within my budget, but not with this kid. With her, all bets were off. Price was never a consideration. For this beauty, I was willing to pay any amount of money if it meant finding something she would even agree to try on.

She was a child of average stature and size; not overly tall for her age and not short. She was neither overweight nor underweight. She didn’t have flaming red hair, which might have rendered certain colors unsuitable, and she had neither a pale nor a sallow complexion. To sum it up, she could wear just about any color or style and everything looked great on her. The problem was that she never liked anything, so I would end up schlepping with her from store to store.

Shopping was a nightmare. I could have outfitted all of my other children combined for an entire school year in less time than it took to find one dress, skirt, or blouse that satisfied this pachech. (For those unfamiliar with the word pachech, I am unable to offer a suitable translation except to say that it is not a flattering term. It isn’t an English word but, although it may sound like Yiddish, strictly speaking it is not. The closest I can come to enlightening you is to let you know that a pachech is inevitably a female and it is a word used to describe one who is difficult to please. In short, someone who is a pachech is a piece of work!)

Fast-forward 40 years and this same daughter of mine has children of her own. And, sure enough, one of her daughters is just like she was. This little girl is Elisheva. She likes absolutely nothing. My daughter now has the exact same deal that I once had with her! Shopping for Elisheva is out of the question and shopping with her is not a lot better. It is exhausting and fruitless.

So it happened! My wish came true. PAYBACK! My daughter gets to experience, with Elisheva, all that I experienced with her.

But now that it has happened, I’m getting very little satisfaction out of it, because I take no pleasure in seeing how hard it is for my daughter. After a day of shopping with this child, when my daughter comes home, empty handed, she will sometimes call me to vent. That is, she will call if she has the energy to lift the receiver. But often she’s so exhausted that she does not.

When we do speak, however, her first words are usually, “Ma, now I know what you went through with me! If you think I was a picky kid, you should take Elisheva with you! Finding anything she likes is impossible!” Then my daughter goes on to groan some more about how Elisheva has so little to wear, etc., etc.

The diatribe brings back less-than-fond memories for me. I remember how I dreaded shopping with this same daughter. But, although I may have meant it at the time, I now regret wishing this on her. Nobody–not even a mother who was once like that herself–should have to go through it. Nobody!

On one occasion, when my daughter had a late-afternoon scheduling conflict, she asked me to go shopping for clothes with one of her children. Hearing the hesitation in my voice, she explained that it was not Elisheva. I was being asked to take another of her daughters and there would be very little for me to do, because my daughter had selected the clothing earlier in the day, when this kid was in school. She had asked the salesgirl to hold the items for a few hours and my assignment was simply to take this child to the store and sit, wait, and watch while she viewed the selections and tried on whatever appealed to her. All I had to do was to let her decide which items she wanted to buy. And that was just what happened. It went smoothly and we walked out of the store with a few pieces.

My daughter would never have asked me to do any such thing with Elisheva. Once in a lifetime is enough. And my lifetime supply of patience is gone. All used up! Maybe my daughter figures that, if I had to go through it at my age, it might cause me to have an anxiety attack and then she could be stuck having to care for me. Even worse, I might become catatonic and begin to drool.

While I have the utmost sympathy for my daughter, I must confess that I am thrilled that it isn’t me who has to deal with it. As they say, been there and done that! Although I sincerely sympathize, I served my time and now it may just be her turn to serve hers. It appears that this is payback and it doesn’t matter that I changed my mind about that. That’s just the way it is.

Author’s Note: Please do not call or send me e-mails with criticism regarding the above masterpiece. I am not putting down my granddaughter, nor am I embarrassing her. She approved this piece and the use of her name. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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