I walked into my local Christmas Tree Shops store to pick up a small wooden table for my bathroom. According to my internet research, it would have cost about $80 anywhere else, but here it was $35. This is the magic of Christmas Tree Shops. It’s the only place I go when I need picture frames, wrapping paper, or cheap seasonal décor, but with the deep discounts comes a price. The stores are chaotic. The carts don’t fit down the aisles, and everyone lingers everywhere, and the minute you step in the door, all time stops. What should be a ten-minute errand easily becomes an hour or more. My mother loved the place, and going there with her was frustrating, clock-watching, overheated madness. God, I wish we could do that again.
Since my Mom died almost six years ago, I pretty much stay clear of CTS, as they call it now. I have plenty of frames and I am an obnoxious re-user of gift bags. When I needed to go there to snag that table, I wasn’t sure why I kept putting it off, but when I walked in, I knew.
My mother, and the feeling of her, and the feeling of the loss of her was ALL OVER THAT STORE. It’s funny. I hadn’t felt her presence in a long time, not in church, or in her home where my Dad still is, or any of her usual places, but amidst the glitter and kitsch of CTS, there she was.
I teared up as I walked in, and as it usually does at CTS, time stopped. Suddenly, it felt like just yesterday that my Mom had died. Suddenly, my eye went to every single thing she would have bought, a whole cart full of stuff, really, and I missed her quirky generosity. Someone she knew would have just LOVED the tiny dishes with the Chinese lettering. Or the giant, disco-ball Christmas ornaments. Or the door-stop stuffed duck sporting a straw hat and a pink ribbon around its neck. Surely the littler grandchildren would love seeing THAT when they came over. My Mom was kooky, and she had such a good heart. I miss her.
It’s amazing how many combinations of mothers and daughters there are at CTS. Maybe it was just that day, but I saw young Moms and baby girls, older Moms with their grown daughters, middle aged mothers with their elementary-school age girls in tow. It’s that kind of a place, I guess. Certainly most men, including my Dad and husband, would do just about anything to avoid darkening its door. While shopping, I lingered much longer than I had planned and, amazingly, found it hard to leave this place that in the past always had me looking for the exits. I didn’t want to leave my Mom there among the bargains. As if she would stay there. Well, she did love a bargain, it’s true.
When I got to my car and closed the door, I cried harder than I had for a long time. I need my Mom and I miss her, maybe now more than ever. And because my distrust of signs these days has me doubting my own spiritual communication with God and my loved ones who art in Heaven, I’ve felt pretty alone. It took a lot for me to audibly speak in my closed car to a mother I am not sure hears me, but when I did speak, it sounded like,
I told her about all the things I have really messed up, and three things I’m really worried about, and how I’m not sure what to believe anymore and how I’m lost, lost, lost, and how I need her, and she said stuff like,
“I see how hard you’re trying.”
“It will be okay.”
“You can trust.”
And I didn’t believe it. Maybe it’s because so much of what I have heard in my prayer life lately doesn’t seem to be working out, or maybe it was all in my imagination to begin with, or maybe all that stuff is just taking the scenic route to get to me, but then I heard again,
“You can trust. Look up.”
And there, inexplicably, were three purple balloons flying by my car, and as they flew higher and higher, I believed. My mother loved purple, and she loved shiny things, and looking up is kind of my thing, and for a moment I believed. It will all be okay, somehow.
Driving home from Christmas Tree Shops, I had way more stuff than I expected. I had the table, of course, but also these little colorful dishes that my mother would have loved, and a tablecloth, and a frame, just because you literally cannot beat those frame prices. But I also came away with a good car cry, a calmed spirit, the feeling of my mother, a moment of peace and some much-needed hope. Not a bad bargain for one trip to CTS. My Mom would be proud.