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It was a shopping trip that quickly turned into a dangerous covert operation. I had to keep my wits about me and my eyes peeled for the threat roaming the downtown streets – my mother.

My father had asked me to pick up my mother’s birthday gift, something that she liked when we were out shopping together earlier in the week. He secretly passed me the cash and I was on the case. I thought it would be simple to duck into the store on Sunday afternoon, when my parents were away enjoying a leisurely boat cruise. And it would have been simple had the store been open on Sundays. Now I had to come up with a plausible reason to leave the house without her.

An opportunity presented itself the day before I was supposed to head back to the city. Mom was heading out to do a few errands; I had just finished my shower and wasn’t “presentable to the public” yet. She headed out…I headed to my room to get “presentable”, grab the cash and head out too.

Her red car was easily distinguishable in the front line of the downtown parking lot. Do I try to find parking somewhere else or do I park further down the row and hope she doesn’t recognize my new car? I parked down the row. With my fingers crossed, I headed out on foot, desperately trying to remember what she had been wearing when she left the house. I had nearly made it to the NW corner when I spotted her in front of the bank, at the SE corner. I swirled and sprinted back to the parking lot. Shielded by a red brick wall, I leaned against the cool bricks trying to regroup. But I couldn’t stay there – if she was heading to her car, she would spot me.  So I jogged the length of the building and headed down a side alley. I peeked around the corner, grabbing the attention of a father pulling a small child in a wagon. Mom was nowhere to be seen so she must have headed to the car…I started walking east down the street. Curses! Mom was across the road, walking west…and waving at me! She looked confused. I smiled and waved, then motioned that I was also heading to the drug store but I would cross at the light. With my heart pounding, I crossed at the intersection and caught up with her inside the drug store. She was looking at sympathy cards; I went looking for dairy digestive pills (which was true). She said it was too bad we didn’t come together – I reminded her I wasn’t ready yet (which was true) but I was thinking slyly, “not likely”…I made my purchase, told her I was heading to the bank (I did head that way but I didn’t stop there) and made a break for it.

I stood at the red light at the intersection with the sun beating down on me, glancing behind me, expecting to see her heading my way once again. I hustled across the street where I stood at a red light at the intersection with the sun beating down on me, glancing behind me…When the light finally turned green, I raced across the road, past the first 2 stores and into a very large woman pondering the meaning of life at the entrance to my store. I was sure she was going to blow my cover, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling “in or out”!

Once inside, I explained my errand to the sales lady, made my purchase, and scoured the streets through the front windows. It appeared the “coast was clear”. I hesitated again outside the store for just a moment before heading back to the intersection. I was cautiously optimistic that I would be successful.

My sixth sense saved me. When I got the intersection, I stopped just shy of the corner and peered around the lamp post. Mom’s car was still in the parking lot. By now, the heat and sunshine were taking their toll and my racing mind couldn’t form a plan. I peered around the pole again – her car was gone. Where has her car gone? Which way is she turning? What if she sees me standing on the wrong street corner carrying this brown paper bag? I strained my head and neck, I bent my knees, I contorted on that street corner with on-lookers…well, looking on – trying desperately to see if she had turned left or right? She was turning right – curses! I really didn’t care how ridiculous I looked. I fled to the safety of that little shop, finding solace in the jingly bell over the door. Pedestrians on the street were staring wide-eyed, first at me and then where I’d gone. Obviously someone must be chasing me?

I waited. My heart pounded. There was a rushing sound in my ears. The light changed to green…and the red car drove through the intersection. At last I could breathe a sigh of relief, and I hightailed it to the house.

When I got there, I told my Dad that “Mom didn’t make that easy”. I told him what had happened and he burst out laughing. Apparently, the flower shop where she had just been (downtown) had telephoned…she forgot her umbrella. When Mom got home 10 minutes later, she walked in and announced that she would have been home sooner but she forgot her umbrella at the flower shop and had to go back for it. I’m just thankful my clandestine shopping adventure wasn’t further complicated. My nerves couldn’t take it…and someone might have called the funny farm!

Happy Birthday Mom!