Hair covered much of her face as the wind gusted briefly. Her hands were filled with probably eight or 10 shopping bags as she desperately looked for her car.
“Where in the world did I park it?” she said in a frustrated tone as I walked past.
Without breaking stride, the woman who appeared to be in her mid- to late-30s began searching her purse in an obvious effort to find the keys so she could press the alert button and zoom in on her vehicle. I remember wondering how is she managing to free up a hand to use in the search without dropping a single package. It was the best juggling act since the 1970 circus near my childhood home.
About that time, she stumbled forward and spontaneously screamed. I glanced back and packages were flying in every direction. Belk, Dillard’s, JCPenny, Aeropostale and Sears were all represented in the whirlwind. And she headed toward the parking lot pavement, totally helpless.
I turned to help, an unwelcomed gesture at first. She seemed more embarrassed than hurt, although a spot just below her elbow was bleeding.
“I’m OK, I’m OK,” she said. “Go ahead, it’s fine.”
As I continued helping her to her feet, I told her falling is not a novelty to me. “It’s my specialty,” I told her.
She smiled as we grabbed the packages and carried them to her red Nissan, which was parked only one aisle over.
She thanked me while looking into the Dillard’s sack to discover one gift had broken during the fall. Tears began filling her eyes.
“I want this to be a good Christmas; I want it to be the perfect Christmas for the kids and everyone in the family,” she said. “My mother ain’t gonna be here next year. Doctors give her two or three months, if that.”
Suddenly, this matter took on a different feel.
Apparently, she does not have a father in the family picture — I didn’t dare ask why. She said she had spent more than $1,200 on gifts for her two daughters, mother, husband and sister, and she wasn’t finished.
“Money doesn’t mean a lot this year,” she said, adding again that she wants everything to be perfect.
She couldn’t tell me what her mother’s perfect gift would be on Christmas morning. “I just got her some things that I hope makes her feel good,” she said.
She opened her car door and climbed in as we neared the end of our impromptu conversation. Yet, I felt the need to add another thought.
“My guess is she already has the perfect gift. Based on what I see, I’ll bet she knows that she has peace in her heart knowing that her daughter’s love is eternal. She knows.”
With that, I went about my annual shopping trip.
This was clearly none of my business, but the tears that returned to her eyes made me think she knew there was some truth in what she just heard. There are some gifts that cannot be purchased.