I was on my way to the dollar store as they were opening, still flush with excitement that I had made a condo reservation the night before. We moved just a few months ago, and John and I had kind of been tiptoeing around the notion of our yearly early autumn/my birthday week on the white sands of Pensacola Beach, not at all sure of it being a possibility this year.
The early morning excursion to the dollar store was to purchase the symbolic “vacation salt and pepper shakers” duo that we have taken along with us every year for the times we actually cook in the condo kitchen instead of eating out. That little $1 condiment combo will sit in its place of prominence all summer long and unwittingly bring a smile to my face no matter the heat or the circumstances of a hectic day or a dentist visit as proof of the fact that the promise of vacation lies ahead.
I happened to glance up at a lady sitting in her car in the parking lot of the store and felt my face break into a huge grin. Just for a moment, I thought it was my mom, and I couldn’t wait to share my good news with her. And then I remembered . . . my mom has been gone for over five years now. I wasn’t going to walk across the parking lot and knock on the car window, smell her perfume as she opened the door and got out to envelop me in a huge hug and laugh at the coincidence that both of us were at the dollar store at that time of the morning.
I just shook my head at the ridiculous notion, wiped the tears from my eyes, and watched as the woman who really did kind of look like my mother drove out of the parking lot in a car that didn’t even resemble anything my mother had ever driven.
How silly of me!
But just for a moment, the impossible seemed real. Just for a moment, I was younger and could remember the sound of my mother’s laugh, and her copper-colored hair, and the little crinkles in the corner of her eyes as she would reach for me and give me the biggest hug even if we had just seen each other the day before. And I would be able to ask her all the questions I’ve been saving since she died because no one has the answers and no one ever will.
Who were the ladies in her wedding album sitting at a table in the church basement at their reception and what were they laughing at? Which cousin of hers was the one who had become a lawyer in Illinois, and whose sister was it that lived next door to Grandma and Grandpa’s in their old house . . . hers or his?
Where exactly in Washington, Missouri was her father born, and is it weird that I feel I could be standing in his footsteps sometimes when I’m discovering that new neighboring city? What was the name of the lady who lived behind us in the first house I remember as a child, the one who always had a cherry lollipop for me whenever she came to the fence with her little dog to talk to my mom?
Silly things, I know, but reminders of how much I miss her, and all those who have gone before and left me to be the oldest in the family now. And I wondered as I was getting out of my car that morning in the parking lot of the dollar store and thought for just a brief moment that the woman in the car across from me was my mom if that will be what Heaven is like.
She’ll roll down the window and smile at me and say, “Well, fancy meeting you here, Vicki Lee! Come around to the other side of the car and jump in. I’ve got some folks who have been waiting an awfully long time to see you. They’re going to be so happy!”