Parenting & Other Life Stories


The sky is as dark as my number 12 black pencil crayon. I stare out the front windshield at the frosty light posts as they race by the window and I am mesmerized by the sparkly decorations shaped like candle sticks on a plate. They hang gracefully from the light post coated with the pale yellow light from the street light itself.

I don’t need to look at the driver to know what the metallic flicking sound means. It is only minutes before the familiar skunky smell starts to fill up the inside of the car. A small cough escapes me unwillingly. I tried to fight the tickle in the back of my throat because I don’t want to cause friction that might make him turn the car around and head back home without reaching our destination. Thankfully he only reaches over and manually rolls the window down a tiny crack. Regardless, bitter cold air cuts into the warm car reminding me of the cold winter and how close we are to Christmas.

The red break lights of the traffic in front of us almost feels festive and my excitement is remembered. I feel so grown up being out at night without mom. She is at home waiting while her boyfriend takes me to Zellers to buy her a Christmas gift. Her boyfriend curses silently as he tries to find a parking spot. Who knew that it would be this busy at this time of night? A soft snow has started to fall and the glow from the store front sign catches the glisten flakes like a spotlight.

Anyway, if the lighted decorations on the street lights were exciting the inside of Zellers feels overwhelming. Everywhere I look there us Christmas sets of soap, perfume, and just about everything else. The shelves are full of Toblerone and Toffifay, candy canes and lifesaver booklets. There is so many colours of ribbons and bows beside rolls and rolls of festive wrapping paper and tags. My head and eyes can’t move fast enough to take it all in.

I am aware that his workboats are stomping away from me and I pause only a second before I scurry after him. Everyone is bustling around oblivious to anything outside their individual bubbles. Christmas music jingles from the overhead speakers.

Mom’s boyfriend has picked up a body spray, and I recognize it as the scent mom likes. He also has a bath salt set. He is looking at me waiting for my opinion. He has no idea that I am lost in this world of commercial Christmas, taken by the environment and transfixed by the very experience. I nod in agreement to overcome to actually speak; she will love it. We grab a few bows and a roll of wrapping paper before checking out.

The drive home is a blur. I am lost in thoughts of twinkling lights, big decorations, and so many fabulous gift options. My thoughts shift rapidly between the experience and the anticipation of wrapping mom’s gift and putting it under the Christmas tree at home. I have created a mantra and I am actively repeating it in my head, “don’t tell her what it is, don’t tell her what it is” hoping that I won’t blurt it all out the second that I see her.

By Shari Marshall – 2019