Christmas, And The Little Store.


The first snowfall of the season visited my city today. Hefty, angelic flakes swung through the air as they fell carelessly from the sky. That sharp chill could be felt with each one that landed upon your skin. That unmistakeable crunch of compacting snow beneath traipsing footsteps could be heard without effort today. There was a kind of – quiet – in the air. A quiet that only comes on a perfect winter’s day. It’s a day that becomes perfect for traveling. Maybe not so much by car but, that’s not the kind of travel I mean. What I am referring to is remembering. Traveling back through the past, and reliving certain memories. With PTSD, I am no stranger to reliving the past. This was different though, this was not so much trauma as it was – somber.


Since my mother’s passing a mere month ago, memory and time travel have been overabundant within my day-to-day. I have grappled with memory as well as grief. I have wrestled with demons and guilt. Anger, and disbelief. I still do…


What happened to me today though was different. I did indeed get whisked away back to a time long ago that when looked at retrospectively, and on the surface, seems much simpler. But as I continue to heal and dive into my past, as well as digest the recent passing of my mum, my life as a youngster through to the man that I am now, has been anything but simple. This was indeed a memory though, of her. Of her and I together.


I couldn’t have been much older than fourteen, maybe fifteen when this all took place. It was on a day like today; chilly but not too cold. Grey and overcast but, not gloomy. You could tell snow was approaching, it was just a coin toss as to when. My mom and I were out for a walk to the corner store from our house down the street. She had wanted something and had roped me away from playing video games so as to accompany her to the store up the road. Appropriately named: The Little Store. Little it was, just like our humble little town.


I recall being somewhat defiant about having to walk with my mom that day. Likely due to the thralls of adolescent rebellion and misdirected angst. God, what I wouldn’t give for a walk with her right now though… After some coaxing and clever bribery on behalf of my dear ol’ mum, I conceded to accompany her, and off we went. After all, a Pepsi did sound pretty good…


My mum was never really a well lady from the earliest that I can remember her so, she often lagged behind when venturing out for a walk. Cigarette in hand, and enthusiasm in mine, we began to ascend the moderately steep incline of the hill leading to the store. My mind was already satiating with the thought of that bubbly, nectar of sugary delight that is associated with pop, so my steps were well ahead of my mum’s tired and concentrated hauls. Feeling somewhat bad about simply running off, I returned to my mom’s side, and began making a conceited effort at matching her pace. Not sure if she noticed or even cared but, it seemed like the right thing to do.


As she inhaled that last little bit of her withering cigarette, she squished it tightly within her fingers, and then tossed it away. As she exhaled a plume of bluish-grey smoke filled the air around her before dissipating into the ether. As we neared the crest of the hill, she began to speak to me and asked me how school was. I was somewhat taken aback by this line of questioning as it was not within the normal repertoire of my mother’s general concerns – unless I had done something to get myself in trouble, which on this occasion, I was sure I hadn’t. I racked my brain quickly for a moment, trying to recall anything that could be considered incriminating, and coming across nothing, I replied with a simple and teenaged dismissal of “Good. School’s fine.” She allowed for that answer and we kept walking.


When we arrived at the store, I reached out and held the door open for her and as she walked passed me, she smiled a mom smile, and ruffled her fingers through my hair. I hated that. Through an exaggerated baritone and forced groan, I said “mom!”, making sure to elongate the O’s and sharply end with an ‘M’, so as to brandish my disapproval. She simply chuckled, and proceeded into the store.


It was upon my entering into the store that I would feel another one of adolescents many invasive feelings. The person working behind the counter was none other than my pubescent symbol of perfection, a new girl to our neighbourhood, older than me sure, but honestly, I think that was part of the allure. I instantly felt myself stiffen my back, and push my shoulders (what little of them I had back then) back, and outward. Now I was strutting around the store like a peacock, albeit a very pale, bold and emaciated one… I allowed my mom to search for whatever she needed, knowing that cigarettes would be last on her list, I boastfully sauntered towards the counter, throwing my right elbow onto the counter and then rested on it while slightly crossing one foot over the other, a move I had seen all the leading men do on TV at one time or another. Now as I think back on this, I likely I looked more like a pale, bold, emaciated and malformed peacock, over a leading man…


I smiled and entered into uncomfortable small-talk with the gorgeous apparition behind the counter. After working up the courage, I lowered my tone and spoke through what I felt to be a handsome gruff and brooding tone, “Du’ Maurier, King size please?”. After smiling back at me through flawlessly glossed lips, she spoke through her strawberry scent and informed me that I was a little young to make such a request. Knowing I had an ‘ace in the hole’ I said, “oh, they are not for me, they are for my mum. Right mum?”, I said, while half-cocking my head over my shoulder, anticipating the answer.


“Hmm? No, I got smokes, I’m looking for Big-Turk…”. Chocolate??? She wanted chocolate? Some ace in the hole that was… Overcome by an instant and heavy warmth of embarrassment, I withdrew my gaze from the tantalizing cashier, and in a childlike dash, hovered around my mom for the duration of our shopping needs.


We left the store, yes with a Pepsi in hand, and ego lagging far behind, likely trapped in a cooler somewhere, hiding behind expired milk. We began the trek back and my mom once again began to speak, “Gaw, son, you’re getting tall eh?”


“Me? Oh, yeah, I suppose”. I am not sure if it was my despondent tone or decreased stepping speed, but my mum began to speak again. She was looking down towards the pavement but speaking to me, she said “You’re becoming quite the looker Matthew. Very handsome boy. My Matty-watt. Matt-Man.”. My mom’s two favorite nicknames for me. Being fourteen or fifteen, I really had no ability to respond to that, especially because all of my thoughts were still back in the store, being swept up by a raven-haired beauty. I think I smirked or did something of limited acknowledgement like that. I am not sure if she had witnessed what had happened, or if she just felt like telling me her motherly observation, it doesn’t really matter though, for the rest of my life, that will forever be my most cherished compliment…


As we continued to walk, at the same pace as one another now, my forehead alerted me to something vigorously shocking. This was followed by another such startle to my cheek. My eyes scurried in front of me to see what was going on, and that’s when I saw them – hefty, angelic like flakes, swinging through the air on their way to the ground around us – the first snowfall in our little town that season.


That’s what I thought of when I stood at the corner of Queen, and Main streets today. Surrounded by a bustling city. Cars sloshing through slush, an honking each other out of the way. I thought through the snowflakes to a simpler time. A quieter time. A time spent with my mum. A time that I will now keep, as well as share. I will love that memory, the same as I love her. It was our Christmas. Our Christmas at the store. The Little Store…


I can’t even remember what the girl behind the counter looks like anymore. But, my mom’s cheeky smile, that, that I remember just fine.

mum and me

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