She sat in the car at Walgreen’s Parking lot again. The glow of the damp, dark pavement mixed in with the lights of cars coming and going, even after midnight when she got off work. Only two days before Christmas, and she still hadn’t put up any Christmas decorations even bought any Christmas presents for her four kids. What kind of mother was she? She sat in her car and breathed deeply gripping the steering wheel and stared at the bright red Walgreen’s sign and blinked. This Walgreen’s was the only one she knew of which was open 24 hours in Mountain View, California — even on Christmas eve night when all the other stores were closed. She knew she could return if she had to, but time was running out.
She had attempted to enter Walgreen’s two times before, but she always stopped at the Christmas decorations near the front door when she saw the red satin bows. She’d stood there paralyzed. She remembered how she and her older son had thrown boxes of trash off the cliff of the City Dump in Salem, Oregon right before they moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Ten years of clutter had filled their garage, and it was time to throw stuff away. Who knew that underneath aged newspaper in one box were her mother’s heirloom Christmas ornaments, which she had given to her right before she passed away from cancer in January. It hadn’t even been a year yet since Mom passed, and she felt like a complete and utter failure knowing she accidentally dumped the box, red satin bows and ornaments flying everywhere as the box hit the ground way below. Her son had to stop her from climbing over the edge to retrieve them. He said it was too late.
She moved to California with a heavy heart and started her new job at a prestigious law firm in Palo Alto, California, the highest paying she’d ever had, though she didn’t realize how expensive living in the bay area was. She now lived close to her dad, so the kids had Grandpa Joe, though they missed their grandmother in Oregon.
She slowly cranked open the window of the old beat-up Chevy Cavalier and opened the door from the outside because the inside door handle didn’t work. She climbed out of the car and slammed the door shut, determined to do it this time. For her kids. Her older son had reminded her a few times, at least do it for Megan, the youngest. Megan had just turned five. She deserved a good Christmas. So did the older ones. She was the most horrible mother in the whole world, the most horrible daughter. She tried not to think of it as she shuffled through the parking lot to the automatic door of Walgreen’s, all brightly lit and festive inside. She let a couple of people pass as she walked through the automatic door and attempted not to look at the ornaments or the red satin bows she knew were displayed near the front door.
But she’d need Christmas ornaments, or a tree of some kind. They had fake trees at Walgreen’s. Too late for a real tree, she thought. She didn’t have ornaments anymore. They were gone along with the handmade stockings, the angels, the birds which looked real, the gingerbread men. She shuddered as she remembered the box soaring through the air at the City Dump, an imagine she could not get out of her head no matter what she did. She couldn’t make the thought go away.
But there they were, the stark reminder, the red satin bows which she could not avoid. Panicked, she started to rush out the door, but then she saw a young girl, probably around nine or ten, with long dark hair, sprint out the door and she heard her dad yelling, “Amanda, please, come back!” At least she assumed it was her dad.
“Hey, where are you going?” she asked the young girl right before she beelined out the door.
“I just want to go home,” the girl said. She stopped and backed up inside.
“Me too,” she said.
“I miss my Mom,” the young girl said, looking down at the ground.
She understood this girl all too well, and what she was going through. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you lose your mother, she thought.
Suddenly, a blondish-brown haired guy who looked utterly frazzled showed up at the door.
“Amanda. Please…oh hi there! Thanks for stopping her.”
The cute guy with the longish hair flashed his gorgeous blue eyes and a huge, happy smile at her.
“Umm, no problem. I get it,” she said.
They stared at each other for a few seconds which seemed like a lifetime.