Thursday, November 21, 2013
Stein Mart Shoppers
Growing up, I mourned my grandparents every day for years while they were still alive. I fully believed I was doing myself a great service. Convinced myself it was good practice for the real moment when I had to breathe with them gone. Even when I was little, I understood how losing them was going to rock our world and I was going to need me to be very strong. So I practiced. While they were in their 70s and 80s. With a decade in front of them. One can never be too dramatic in our family. (Abby does us proud.)
My heart would rise and fall at the shadows of my grandfather's footsteps past my bedroom door at night; him secretly checking on me, me secretly checking on him. I loved him so much for just being there that I felt, simultaneously, both elation and sadness to my toes. Elation for his being and sadness that his being was winding down to a visible and natural stop. It was always both up and down emotions, for years, like breathing heavily or living inside a beating heart.
I also felt like a had a great secret against the world. The secret of knowing how things go and how people do, eventually and with certainty, end. I got to see things from an unusual perspective, behind the curtains, from the top down like touring the underground city of the Pentagon. You hear rumors that it's there but most never get to see.
The Marine Corps Ball is this weekend so I took myself dress shopping last Friday. As I passed the chunky beaded bracelets my chest began to ache. Small white Christmas lights braided through jewelry stands and green garland finished the thought. My mom. I really miss my mom. Mom's still here and we talk every day so I don't know why this came over me in the jewelry department but it did. As I rolled fleur-de-lis earrings between my fingers, I knew it was more than not seeing her for the last six months. I miss her a lot right now as the holidays approach but more than that, I miss being her daughter. I miss walking toward her with bed hair and a pink blanket just to see her face turn to look at me while she rinsed something in the kitchen sink. I miss her eyes lighting up just because I entered the room. She is always so glad to see me. Not many are happier to see you than your mom.
To press in the point, the Stein Mart Universe gave me a freaking Boompa (Mom's mom) lookalike seconds later. Feet from me stood a petite older lady with dyed-brown permed curls sizing up the cardigans. She smelled of lotion. If it wouldn't have gotten me arrested I would've gone right up to her and bunched her sweater underneath my nose to inhale for a long time. Not all grandparents smell the same but this one was real close. Our Boompa. I refrained, however, and turned toward picture frames and holiday wall art. She passed me again, accidentally driving my melancholy insane. "LEAVE ME ALONE I JUST MISS MY MOM RIGHT NOW." I wanted to scream at my late grandmother's doppelgänger but thought perhaps that might be a tad traumatic for Stein Mart.
Seconds later, a little man with snowy hair and a cell phone puttered toward the picture frames. He looked down at his phone, then up, down again, then up and I knew this had to be her Mister. "She went that way," I almost blurted out but again, not many people appreciate someone else's enthusiastic grandchild.
The couple met up somewhere in the middle and I watched them from behind the doggie biscuit jars. He found his bride, cupped her face in his hands, and grinned the sweetest smile. She patted his hands away and asked if he liked the gold shirt she was carrying. He did, indeed.
I could barely blink.
The heart can hold only in so much beauty before it has to let it out. That, too, would've been a touch too dramatic for Stein Mart.
I suppose no matter how happy you grow up to be, the holidays make everyone nostalgic for what you once had. And just how darn good you once had it.