The mall was crowded today—not surprising, considering the chill of the cold January spritz outside.  Holding my mom’s hand, we navigate through shoppers clutching large bags while balancing coffee cups and cell phones.  Like ants, they march with a sense of purpose. 


We do not walk the mall for stuff.  We walk for movement, as a meditation and a chance to notice everything.  Noticing is important now.  All that is left is the moment.  As we walk, I long for something different between us, a spark of remembrance, of a past with me in it.  But the only memories available are from her childhood, and even those are fading fast.  So I cling to the moment and her hand.


The moment represents a spark of possibility, of wonder and personal change. Mom captures a pun, like an elusive butterfly, and reveals it when I am least expecting.  Passing Godiva Chocolates, she slows and with a slight grin, quips, “I’d like to Go-diva into THAT chocolate!” Chuckling, I agree and we walk in and order ice cream.  I wince at the inflated mall prices until I notice the joy it brings my mom.  With a cup of ice cream and a spoon, my mom could conquer the world.


When I was young, mom rarely ate dessert, preferring to watch her weight and stay out of the kitchen.  Now she indulges when she can, and as soon as she enjoys the final spoonful, will ask for ice cream as the memory fades.


Content now, we drift through the makeup section at Macy’s and try on perfumes.  As I spray her wrist with Chanel No. 5 (her favorite), a smile and a fleeting sigh of recognition flash across her face.  We test lotions and sprays and return to the mall traffic trailing a scent of orange blossoms and jasmine.  She has no desire to buy anything, so we comment on what we see—the clothes of the shoppers, the bright displays, and the lingering taste of chocolate. 


In my 20’s, I didn’t connect with my mom much.  She followed a God of the narrow way, on a black and white path of sin and grace.  The chasm between us grew as I found an ever-expanding God among the Community of Friends and through my work alongside international students representing a prism of colors, cultures, religions and lifestyles.  For many years we have had little to talk about outside of the weather and happenings of the family.  After Alzheimers, even that was lost. 


Who would have guessed that connection and Light would come on this bleak January day, in such an unexpected place?   Usually when I walk the mall, I feel overstimulated and wanting.  Today, I notice the pure joy in the attention my mom gives to her ice cream, and slowly my fears subside.  This is grace revealing itself.  The mutual slights, the unmet expectations, the differences that get in the way of pure love and attention melt with the ice cream on my tongue.  Today, we bounce from store to store as bees to flowers, sucking the nectar from an unexpected source, sharing an ice-cream, content in the moment, thankful to be alive.

—Jill Townley