Walking through Sears department store the other day, I passed by the boys’ and then the men’s department while calmly experiencing all the expected memories: the packages of socks, the work pants, the plaid shirts, the dress shirts. My mind drifted back to the time, years ago, when Hans and his dad spent several hours in the parking lot of this store, trying to fix the heater on our old Custom Cruiser station wagon – at twenty-something degrees below zero. In the dark.
My thoughts drifted again and, from the fringes of the tool department, near a long row of shiny appliances, I stood gazing up at the glass elevator as it silently glided up and down, up and down. As a toddler, Hans liked to ride this elevator mainly because he liked to push the buttons – later, because he enjoyed the sensation of weightlessness. As a man, he shopped for tools and clothes there. At some point, he discovered that, from the topmost position of the elevator’s journey, he could (unknown to his oblivious mother) keep me in view no matter where I was in the store. This knowledge served him well during the Christmas shopping season.
Yes, the Sears store in Fairbanks, Alaska holds many memories for us.
But, it’s different – now.
I turned my back on the elevator and continued on through the tool department where we bought so many Christmas presents for the men in our family: the flashlights, the socket wrench sets, the tool bags. I was feeling rather victorious, thinking I had handled all that pretty well.
Feeling safe, I headed for housewares to look at sheets but then found myself in the little girls’ department, which comes just before housewares. I felt uneasy for some reason. But, well, what could be safer than the little girls’ department?
I ignored the silent warning which told me to just look straight ahead and press on with all possible dispatch to housewares. Instead, I let my eyes swing to the left to look at the little girls’ dresses, all pink and frilly and loaded with ribbons. So girly. No little boy memories here. No, sir.
So why the tears out of nowhere, in the very center of Sears department store, far from the exit or even the bathroom where I can hide and compose myself? Why does my heart hurt suddenly and for no apparent reason?
Because, there is a reason.
Hans will never have a little girl.
He would have made such a great Daddy.