The catalogs come, the flyers in the paper, the ads with great bargains and ideas for holiday shopping.  My list this year is filled with legos and flannel shirts and men’s socks. Arrow’s needs are so great it is too easy to find things for him.  Plum still wants every toy in the ads but no dolls, nothing pink or frilly.  Chef is always the hardest, most particular.  Same things every year, few surprises.  For the first time in 27 years, I won’t be buying anything for my daughter, the girl who has now decided she doesn’t want her mother.  I won’t be sending packages to her daughter either, not knowing if she gets them or they are discarded.  Money is too precious.  Last year I sent the special nail polish for babies that Stella wanted, put that in the stockings we sent.  I never saw little toes with pink or purple nails.  I didn’t even get the stockings back, which match our collection.  I persevered for a while, sending books and toys for my granddaughter but finally gave in to Stella’s desire to be left alone.

The ads with little girls in warm winter coats call to me, beg me to carry on the tradition begun with my grandmother.  She always purchased our winter coats, knowing what a help this would be to my parents as they struggled financially.  My mother continued on when my kids were little, the help coming at just the right time.  She was able to buy the heavier, warmer coats that were out of our budget, not caring that the kids would grow out of them each season.  I bought warm clothes for my granddaughter for her first two seasons, to carry her through, but it is time again for a coat.   Too many times I have selected the coat, carried it throughout the store, made it all the way to the checkout, only to stop.  Defeated, I put it aside and rush from the store, into my car with the tears threatening to alarm holiday shoppers.

I found several adorable outfits in one store that I couldn’t resist.  I took my time putting together leggings with tops and little poncho covers, found ways to mix and match to help a mama get the most out of the outfits.  Satisfied, I purchased the lot, not making eye contact or responding to the clerk’s attempts at small talk.  When the charge came across Chef’s alert, he called and I had to confess that I just wanted so desperately to pretend that I have a granddaughter, that I get to shop for her as well.  Back to the store I went, no eye contact, more tears.

I haven’t bought any Tom’s for Stella, none of the sweaters she would love, no boots, no socks, no chocolate covered cherries or make up for her stocking.  I haven’t stashed away the special avon dew kiss lip gloss she likes for the winter.  The boxes of beignet mix stay on the shelves.  Bath and Body works will get none of my money, there will be no cherry blossom lotion sent this year.

Skype tells me I last used it Dec 25, 2014 at 12:37 am.  An application I once praised as straight from God, one that kept me connected to my sweet girl so far away, now is taking up memory on my mac. If only I had recorded those sessions, to visit with her again and again.  If shopping and visiting on line are indications of relationship health, we are dead.  Can anything resurrect us?  I have lived in this town for 20 years, avoiding roads and areas that hold horror.  Now I find myself averting my eyes when toddling chubby cheeked girls with fuzzy brown hair are giggling with their mamas, the desire to rush in overwhelming.  I avoid foods that remind me of Stella, no longer able to find an appetite at all.  I search out willowy blonds on campus and then hate that I am still seeking where I know nothing will be found.  More and more to avoid, until it is easier to stay in bed.

The story of the prodigal son happened, right?  Our son came back and we have celebrated him, fatted calf and all.  But the obedient child chose to leave, not sticking around to finish out the parable.  Maybe she was the prodigal all along.  Clearly I missed something.  I am sure of one thing, I would welcome her back with open arms and Tom’s and dew kiss and sweaters and boots.  And me.

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