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Get Out of the Gift Shop!

                 Ah! The Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City. Thousands of years of human art, history, and culture. People from all over the world come to this fabulous museum to look…at the art. Not, however, my mother. Traveling with my mother, or in fact, any of the women in my family, can be an adventure. But that’s another few hundred stories. But let’s get on with the museum.

                Now, I love museums in general. If it has museum in the title, I will pretty much be there, wherever “it” is. But this, this is

T-H-E  M-E-T-R-O-P-O-L-I-T-A-N  A-R-T  M-U-S-E-U-M!

                So I was super excited, when on our last full day in the City, my sister’s friend takes us to the Met. A dream come true! Halls and walls and more halls of sculptures and paintings. My mother, beyond any reasonable comprehension on my part, decides to go first to the… water fountain, no. The bathroom, no. My mother decides to go to the…Gift Shop. First. In one of the best museums not just in the nation but in the world.

“I just need to get something for Karen. I won’t be long.”

Now, I do have to admit that the gift shop at the Metropolitan Art Museum is a really good gift shop. But you don’t go to the Met to see the freakin’ gift shop!

The minutes tick by, and Mom is still shopping.

“Mom, we have to go soon. We only have an hour before we have to leave.”

“Calm down. I’m almost done.”

Forty-five minutes later, Mom is still shopping. She is totally mesmerized by the fact that she can buy her friend a pair of earrings from Egypt.

“Mother! You…have been…shopping…for forty-five…minutes! This is ridiculous! We are in the Metropolitan Art Museum!”

Then, my sister’s friend, seeing my obvious distress, intervenes.

“Hey, Erika. Would you like to borrow my member’s pass so you can go see some of the art?”

“Oh, God, yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

I quickly grab the pass, and head for the stairs. Running as is seemly in such a grand edifice as this.

I follow the signs for the European Paintings- 17th and 18th Centuries. Having only fifteen minutes to go through history, I must prioritize my viewing. Aaaaagggggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, okay. Calm down! You can do this!

The first room I go through is full of…Oh my God! Titian! So many Titians, so little time. Keep walking. More rooms to come.

I continue on to the next room, 18th Century. My favorite! I might have been married at Scarborough Renaissance Festival in the year 1533 but if there had been an Enlightenment Festival nearby… I digress. This room awes me to my core. Is that…really…Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun? Oh my God, it is! And there’s another! I can barely contain myself. Multiple Vigee Le Bruns in one room? I’ve obviously died, and reached Nirvana. Oh right, most people are probably wondering who in the world is Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun. Well, she was The Marie Antoinette’s portrait painter, as well as one of the 18th Century’s most prominent female painters. She also caused a bit of a scandal by painting herself with an open smile which revealed her…wait for it…teeth. OH THE HUMANITY! SHE SHOWED HER TEETH!!

Let’s get back to the museum and its four Vigee Le Bruns in the French Gallery. No, friendly museum guard, that’s not my drool on the floor. As much as I would love to set up my permanent bed right here in this room, alas, I must leave. But I set my route back to the infernal gift shop so that I can see as much art and artifacts as possible. More paintings, sculptures, musical instruments pass my eyes.

I finally make my way back to the gift shop. It’s amazing what I’ve seen in the last fifteen minutes. It also amazes me that my mother has spent a solid hour in a museum gift shop.

“Mom! I just saw a room full of Titians! And another full of Vigee Le Bruns! If only you could have actually seen any of the art instead of just the gift shop.”

“I know, I know. Look, do you think I should get the silk scarf from Italy or the earrings from Egypt. Erika, they have stuff from around the world! You’d love everything in here.”

“Sorry, Mom, I’ve been busy. Looking at the art. They have this thing here across the hall called a museum.”

“I think I’ll get her the earrings. She loves jewelry.”

“Yeah, Mom, whatever. They’re nice earrings.”

I give up. A few years later, I do get redemption. But I’ll save that story for another day.

Erika L. Durham

1 August 2012