I was five.
Going Christmas shopping with my Mom in the great city of Lethbridge.
And it was the most exciting time ever.
Almost . . .
First, there was the anticipation.
Heightened by each of the long seventy miles from the ranch.
And by older brothers and sister who were talking about all of the exciting stores we would visit and the amazing/stupendous/astounding things they would buy.
Then, there was the first spotting of the crèche, a sure sign Lethbridge was just around the corner.
And, finally, the Christmas lights.
I think the car window was permanently marked by my nose pressed against the glass.
Mom carefully navigated the crowded streets and found a parking space.
And everyone piled happily from the car.
All right so far.
My older siblings immediately separated and disappeared into the seething masses that churned up the snow on the sidewalks.
I stood, frozen beside my Mom, and stared.
In the anticipation of ‘Christmas Shopping’, I hadn't anticipated this part.
The sheer number of people.
Let’s face it. I lived on a ranch waaay out in the country.
For a big-eyed five-year-old, this was like being on the set of a Cecil B. DeMille movie.
With no Cecil B. DeMille.
Mom picked up my baby brother, then turned back to me.
“Okay, Diane,” she said. “Now you hang onto my pocket.”
I immediately (and gratefully) reached for the large pocket of her thick, wool car coat.
And did what I was told.
In point of fact, I don’t think anything could have loosened my grip from that warm, comforting strip of fabric.
There may be crowds around. Big, scary, unknown people intent on their own errands, but I had hold of my Mom’s pocket. And by transference, my Mom.
Nothing could harm me.
Moving ahead several years . . .
I was Christmas shopping with my kids. The older three had disappeared on their own missions.
The younger three were with me.
I was holding my four-year-old’s hand and walking down the crowded mall.
Suddenly, I felt a tug on my coat.
My six-year old had grabbed my pocket.
I smiled as the memories flooded in.
I know she felt instantly safer.
And so did I.