On a recent trip to the Stanford mall, I found myself in a terrible traffic jam. No, not the frustrating kind on today’s freeways where we grit our teeth to hold back building road rage, but unnerving just the same. I was hungry and on a mission to get some Pinkberry frozen yogurt before perusing the stores when I found myself stuck behind a crowd of people moving at a snail’s pace.

“What is going on?” I grumbled, wondering if there was a demonstration of sorts up ahead. “I don’t have time for this.”

Mimicking the game “in and out the window,” I wove my way through the crowd thoroughly annoyed. Finally breaking through, I stopped dead in my tracks and my heart began to ache. There before me, a hunched-back woman of advanced years gripped her walker with her gnarled fingers. Standing patiently beside was her adult daughter gently rubbing her back. Finding it hard to swallow, I was thrown back fourteen years when this was my life.

Carefully passing by, I smiled remembering my own mother: the keeper of all my secrets, the woman who always had my back, and the one who loved me long before I was even born.

In my youth, this mall was a respite for the two of us as we’d travel aimlessly on Sunday afternoons to escape the noise four men can make over a sporting event on the only TV in the house. Our shopping was never about a spree, but spending time together. A weekly routine we did even when she became crippled and clung to her walker too.

Finding my way to the yogurt shop, I noticed other mother/daughter teams everywhere. It wasn’t long before my green-eyed devil wiggled her nasty self to the surface and I wanted to scream like a petulant child, “This is no fair! I want my mom too.” Then, I had an idea.

I like to believe there’s a spiritual life beyond our human experience and that my deceased loved ones are always just a breath away, but that day, I wanted more. I wanted to take her shopping with me just like all the other daughters, so I decided to tap into my imagination.

Heading over to Nordstrom’s where we’d first meet on the patio to share a snack and solve all the problems of the world, I literally stopped to smell the coffee. Staring at the table we once coveted, in my mind’s eye, I could see her sitting there, belly laughing over some mishap. Then, reaching out to hold my hand, she’d console me over a recent pain I was feeling.

Next, I headed inside and up the escalator to our favorite departments. Roaming through the racks, I found myself picking things up and asking her opinion. And, just like long ago, I could hear her say, “I think you could do better.” Giggling, I put the items back and had to agree. She always knew what looked best on me.  An hour later, it was time to go home.

Driving away, I marveled over the lovely shopping experience I’d just had. Of course, nothing ever replaces the real thing, and how I wished she was still with me, but that day, by deciding to let go of adult conditioning that says life is real and make believe is for children only, I immersed myself in a world of pure imagination and was once again spending the day with the most important woman in my life. I wonder where we’ll go next. Mom always wanted to go to Paris!