The Family Shopping Trip


The Family Shopping Trip (2015)



I want to tell you about the day that I went to the mall and bought stuff for my family. It all started with my mom saying that she wanted me to buy her a bag. That’s when I went home to visit her one sunny afternoon. It’s always my tradition to see her before I had a flight. Just in case I died. 

“You go to Malaysia again? You buy some bags for me, okay?”

I hesitantly said no to her because I didn’t want to carry stuff. And buying a woman bag was kind of embarrassing for me, I was very fragile with my masculinity. 

But then she reminded me about that time, “You bought me a bag when you went to America.”

True that, but I received a scholarship, so I got some pocket money. This case was different. 

So, I went to Malaysia and ended up didn’t buy her any. Upon knowing this, she’s disappointed. My reason was, I didn’t have enough time to visit KL’s mall. A lie.

So, after my return to Indonesia, I decided to take her to the nearest mall to cheer her up. I had some money from my publisher, might as well spend it on my mother.

The mall was about an hour’s journey from the village. We rode a motorbike. I had never taken her to any malls. I meant just the two of us like a mother-son date. So that was the first time. I took her to a restaurant that she had never been to and then took her to a bag store.

“Now pick anything you want,” I told her. “Bag here and bag in KL are same-same.”

She’s excited. She took a very long time and came up with something cheap.

“Pick something expensive!” I told her. “You can buy something like that at pasar.”

She went again and hesitantly handed me a bag that cost 250 thousand rupiahs. But I knew she’s been glancing at the bag that cost 500 thousand rupiahs. I saw her held it once and put it back. She liked it.

I said, “It will be discounted in half. So, it’s fine.” I took that expensive one. (I was very good at discounted stuff and brought my calculator all the time while shopping).

She said, “No, it’s okay. Just buy the affordable one.” Two hundred fifty thousand was already expensive for her. 

I paid for the expensive one anyway.

“Do you want some sandals or shoes?” I asked her. 

She nodded.

So, we went into a shoe store. But apparently, her feet were too big, the store didn’t have her size. Once, there’s this sales girl who looked down on us as we dressed like we didn’t have money, but I didn’t give a shit. We kept on looking and found these expensive shoes that cost nearly one million rupiahs. It was Kickers and made of leather. She tried them for fun and told me that they fit her perfectly. But she wouldn’t take them because the price was crazy. I went to the sales and got informed that the shoes would be discounted in half as well. It’s a good bargain. So, I bought them.

We went home after that. 

At the house, she wore them all, along with the new dress that she bought earlier with her own money, and told me that she didn’t have to buy any new dress for Eid. I “Okay-ed” her. 

She bragged about that to my older sister through SMS text, that she just shopped with me. 

I spent a night at my mother’s house, I slept in front of the TV in the living room. 

To my surprise, the next morning, after subuh prayer, she groggily told me that she couldn’t sleep at all because she thought that the shoes and the bag were too expensive for her.

I laughed so hard.

Honestly, I had never bought something that expensive for me as well.


After a nasi uduk breakfast, my sister came to visit. She wanted to see the shoes and the bag. My sister worked as a helper with a payment of only a half million rupiah per month. She lived a few houses away. After admiring the shoes and the bag, she told me she was also going to pasar to bought her children some pants for Eid.

“Why now? It’s still a couple of months to go till lebaran,” I said.

“In the fasting month, it will be too hectic,” she said to me.

I saw my niece and nephew. One was a 4th grader, and the other is a 7th grader. Both are very skinny and shy.

“Come on, I take you to the mall,” I told my sister.

She was surprised, but hell, she was thrilled.

My niece and nephew came along, and we had never gone to the shopping mall altogether like that. We took an angkot, a minivan for public transportation and had to endure more than an hour’s journey in the dusty suburb street's scorching heat.

All sweaty, we arrived at the fresh aircon-ed mall. I took them to the fashion store right away. I knew it would have lots of lots of good bargain and discounts as it was a weekend. All was very cheap.

And I was right.

My nephew took a very short time to decide what he wanted. Two pair of pants, and some T-shirts. All five of them picked within thirty minutes. My niece was another story, which reminded me of my little self. She took her time really well and couldn’t decide on anything. Her mother got frustrated. She almost never bought clothes in the mall and there were too many options.

So, I took the girl. “Come on, let’s shop with uncle,” I said.

“This looks good on you,” I said, while handed her a pink top. She agreed. “What else do you want? Tell me. You want some jeans?”

“No, I don’t want jeans, I want L├ępis.” She told me, pronouncing Levi’s brand, which to her was the name of the apparel. 

“Honey, it’s the same,” I told her, chuckled.

I let her pick some jeans that are still on the hanger (not the ones piled on the discounted carts).

She found what she liked, held it dearly, and seemed to be sincerely joyed by it. She then saw the price tag; it was 300 thousand rupiahs.

“You like it?” I asked her.

She said, “Yes, but it’s too expensive, wow...” She shook her head and smiled. She put back the jeans into the hanger and ran to another place like it didn’t matter. It broke my heart into pieces.

I bought the jeans for her, “It will be discounted, don’t worry,” I told her. 

She said no, it’s too expensive, but I said it’s okay, and in the end, she took it.

The discounts fair was really good, there were some items in which if you bought two pieces of clothes you could get one for free and all. We ended up picking seven different items. And I paid for them all.


My niece told her mom that she was hungry and wanted to eat. I asked her what she wanted? I knew some toasted bread with yummy toppings, and she said yes, she wanted that. We went there and they ate a lot. Like ‘really’ a lot. I didn’t bite any. Sister told me that last Lebaran, her daughter only bought one pair of clothing from the store in the pasar. I ‘hmm’ and didn’t respond to that.

Upon finishing the bread, the little girl whispered to her mother that she’s still hungry and wanted to eat rice. Oh my... so Indonesian. So, I took her to Burger King and bought the rice and chickens. 

After saying goodbye to them, I went to the toilet. And in one of the cubicles, I sat and I started to cry. I’m sorry, I said. Sorry for leaving home and didn’t visit you all as often. Sorry if I didn’t make more money. I felt the guilt punching me in my guts and I let it.

I spent quite much on the shopping altogether that I barely had any savings left, but that didn’t really matter. And that’s all that I wanted to tell you about the shopping trip. Writing this made my throat choked a little. And no, I never said it to them directly, and although I hate them, I do care, so much.