At the Mall (or how my vanity and pride proved useful)

I have old lady lips I bemoaned to my children, who rapidly assured me I didn’t.  Not yet at least.  They then proceeded to suggest Chapstick as a possible remedy. The topic quickly moved away from my slowly decaying body to other, more interesting topics like basketball practice, recent injuries, funny stories from school, which Disney princess would win in hand to hand combat, and from there deteriorating into the inevitable (in my house at least) “your face” and “your mom” jokes between my teens.

But I was stuck on my face.

So I did what any self-respecting 40 something would do: I decided to accept the decline graciously and embrace the wrinkles as a well deserved and well-earned badge showing how much life I’ve lived.   Bahahahahahaha …She’ya right.  I plan on kicking and screaming my way to the golden years; or at the very least whining my way – won’t that be pleasant for Brad?  What I really did was vow to go to  Younkers as soon as possible and buy as much Clinique as my budget would allow.

You have to understand, I live in the boon docks.  The nearest city large enough for a major department store is 70 minutes away so driving all that way just for my vanity is ultimately an expensive waste of time.  Because of that fact, I haven’t used Clinique in 20 years-since moving out here to no man’s land.  But, pride being what it is (all-consuming and controlling) I left right after work in search of the proverbial fountain of youth in a bottle – oh, Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, how I’ve missed you.

After finding the store (I rarely go to this mall so it took a while and have only been to this Younkers once about 10 years ago), I parked, locked up the van and headed in.  Shoot…where’s my phone…back to the car, I still can’t locate the phone but I know it must be there, so I forget about it and head in.  No meandering or browsing for me.  This trip is all business.  I locate the Clinique counter and a very helpful youngish Stacy helps me find the remedies for my dry skin, dark circles and fine lines.   After perusing, selecting and purchasing my magical potions, she looked at me and sweetly said So, you’re an empty nester? Eyes wide and slight gasp escaping from my thin old lady lips… Ummm, not yet. I feebly responded. and you’re lucky I already paid after that knife to the heart little missy with your perfect skin, great big engagement ring and blonde puffy hair.  But I digress…

I left the counter, immediately forgetting the high healed 20 something and her remarks and made a bee line to the doors.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught the familiar figure tucked back in accessories, hiding from the world.  Surely that can’t be her…can it?  It’s been months since our paths crossed.  We prayed together weekly for years then, because of different life circumstances, we stopped.  But our spirits have remained close.  I’d just heard of her tragedy the day before.  For a nano second I considered walking by, but I couldn’t.  Seeing her here, in Younkers  – a store I never frequent – on a random Tuesday in December – wasn’t a coincidence.  Purposely, deliberately I walked to her.  Through her haze, her weary eyes immediately registered recognition as she looked up from her meaningless perusing of the belts.  Hugging and crying, we barely spoke.  Her grief, so fresh, enveloped her even as I embraced her tiny frame.  We exchanged very few words but she spoke volumes through her tears and few sentences.  At her husband’s urging she’d ventured out with friends trying to block out the pain and do something “normal” if only for a few hours.  But how do you really block out an ache that deep?  There, in the midst of the scarves and belts and socks, and scads of holiday shoppers, I had no words for her, only the realization, once again, that this is what it is to mourn with those who mourn and bring comfort when no comfort is imaginable. I don’t know how to do this she whispered.  We hugged and cried some more and both agreed this accidental meeting was no accident.   She handed me an abrasive kleenex and with a laugh, remarked about the poor quality tissues from the funeral home.  You’d think they’d invest in the aloe soaked kleenex for the grieving I quipped.  She laughed.  Then immediately teared up again.  How do you go on after losing a child, no matter the age?  How do you live and breathe and function when your very heart is ripped open?  I don’t know.  As we parted, I told her I’d be praying for grace for the moment.  Her friends arrived.  More tears and one last embrace and we said good-bye.

I walked away, smart little Clinique bag in tow, heart both full and empty, thanking God for my skinny, line-y lips and the urge to fix them that led me to Younkers on a random Tuesday in December.


Today I’m participating in a group writing project started by my dear friend, Jennifer…


11 Replies to “At the Mall (or how my vanity and pride proved useful)”

  1. Patty, thank you so very much for this and the reminder that ‘responsive obedience’ isn’t always what we think it is but it will always take us to Kingdom places to which only Christ can lead.

  2. No coincidence. Indeed. Just taking this all in, Patty, and just imagining all the things that had to take place for your “chance” encounter.

    (P.S. — I know what that’s like to feel you next to me, when I’ve hurt. And Clinique can’t match that kind of beauty.)

    1. It’s amazing to me how many details were orchestrated for this “chance” meeting…even more than I detailed here. God is God and we are not and once again I realize I only see a teeny tiny piece of His workings.

      Thank you once again for your selfless hosting of the writing project.

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