My dad and I had a Christmas tradition. One Saturday in December we got into the car and drove to Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey to Christmas shop for my mom. It began one year when Mom wanted a new pair of Sunday-Go-to-Meetin’ shoes. He always had a difficult time discerning if the shoes he found would be both acceptable and fit Mom’s foot. As fate would have it, after my feet stopped growing, they were the same size as Mom’s feet. As time went on, it became our once-a-year Father-Daughter outing. This year, 1978, we were both filled with raw emotions and apprehension. In many ways, it was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Our first stop was always a coffee shop where we fortified ourselves with caffeine and carbs. This year, we lingered over our coffee. Dad was wearing his puppy eyes, and I was thinking that no matter how good of a man Harry was, Daddy would always be the first man I had loved; no one could take his place. We perused mom’s Christmas list – which was nearly the same from year to year – and set off to fulfill Mom’s wishes.
The shoe store was first. We found some shoes, and I tried them for fit. The pair we chose made mom smile from ear to ear on Christmas day. We picked out a matching hand bag for her while we were there. Next we looked for some stocking stuffers for her: a pair of non-pierced slide on earrings, socks and a head scarf. Dad had planned on a bigger Christmas for Mom, but it didn’t happen that year. Mid afternoon, an Orange Julius completed our last magical mall Christmas tour. On the way home, Dad started the obligatory negotiations to encourage me to wrap Mom’s presents, and as I did every year, I pretended I didn’t want to – but of course I did.
Christmas Day was subdued compared with the hilarity we usually enjoyed. In addition to the money mystery, we were grieving that our yet unborn family member, would not be joining us for any other holidays. His destiny had been decided while he waited to see the light of day. Then there was an undercurrent of the pain of loss for the baby and for my move to Portugal in the next year.
My sister kept trying to find a comfortable way to sit – the baby was due within a week or so. My dad sat in his chair in the corner and sighed heavily when he looked at me. I sat on the bottom step clutching my favorite gift: a boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. (I still have them; you can tell by looking how much they have been loved down through the years.)
It was a waiting time for all of us.
Have you ever been in an uncertain waiting time? Can you describe how it felt?