Shopping opportunities were somewhat limited in the town of Bluesky. For a quest like this one, Mary and Amber had to drive into Marshallville. For really serious shopping, like Christmas shopping, they might even drive to Phoenix. But they were sure that one of the shops in Marshallville would have exactly what they wanted.
The road from Bluesky to Marshallville winds through open grassland before climbing up into the mountains. Around curve after curve, mountaintops covered with tall ponderosa pines come into view. Approaching Marshallville from the east, it seems to appear suddenly among the mountains, as though it sprang from the pages of a pop-up picture book. It is a city with a long history and a colorful past.
Mary drove past quaint neighborhoods with beautiful old homes built in the Victorian style. The streets were lined with tall elm trees, the branches seeming to hold hands high above the pavement. Victorian streetlights completed the allusion of traveling backward in time. Mary found a parking space along a side street in the downtown section of Marshallville. From there, she and Amber could explore the many small shops. Redbrick storefronts reminiscent of the early twentieth century lined both sides of the streets. One called Lavender and Old Lace was their favorite. Inside, they found some beautiful dresses. Mary quickly chose a flowered dress she liked for herself. It had a fitted waist and a full skirt. A matching hat completed her outfit. Then they looked around for a dress for Amber. She turned up her nose at the ruffled pink dress her mother held up.
“Yuck.” She shook her head. “I haven’t worn dresses like that since I was four.”
“What are you looking for?” Mary asked after they left the third store with no success.
“Something with no ruffles, lace, or bows,” Amber said. “Maybe a simple skirt and a nice top.”
“I know just the place,” Mary said excitedly. “I think you’ll find the perfect outfit there.”
Back to the car, Mary drove them across town to a small shopping mall where a tiny dress shop advertised fashions for teens and preteens. Amber gave a loud sigh of relief.
“I should be able to find something here,” she said with enthusiasm. “This place is new. How did you find out about it?”
“I sold them insurance a few weeks ago,” Mary said. “I had forgotten all about it.”
Several other mother-daughter teams were moving around the store from rack to rack, exploring the stylish choices. After trying on several outfits, Amber selected a black-and-white skirt that she matched with a short black jacket and white top. The skirt was a little shorter than Mary was comfortable with, but she changed her mind when the saleslady suggested tights to wear under it.
Now that Amber was satisfied with her Easter outfit, it was time for lunch.
“What kind of food would you like?” Mary asked.
“Mexican, of course,” was Amber’s answer.
Mary drove them to Amber’s favorite restaurant, Angelina’s Mexican Food. After being seated by the hostess, they studied their menus.
“You always order the same thing,” Mary said. “Are you thinking of trying something new?”
“I was thinking about it,” Amber said. But when the server came, she ordered her usual green chili burro with sour cream and guacamole on the side.
“I’m really proud of you and your friends,” Mary said as they waited for their food. “You’re sticking with this Happy Helper idea. I wasn’t too sure about it when you started, but I can see how important it is to you.”
“It is, Mom,” Amber said excitedly. “I like helping. It makes me feel good inside. But I also like spending time with the seniors. They know a lot of things, and they have lots of patience with us.”
“They probably miss their grandchildren,” Mary added. “You and your friends are sort of filling in for them in a way.”
“That’s true,” Amber agreed. “But it works the other way too.”
“What do you mean?” “Well, Melissa’s grandmother lives with her family, but the rest of us don’t get to see our grandparents very often. Betty talks to me just like Grandma Snyder does. I really like that.”
“That’s a keen observation,” Mary said. “Obviously, you’ve thought about this quite a bit.”
“The seniors are a lot of fun,” Amber continued. “Take Gus for example. He tells these corny jokes and pops out his teeth.”
“What do you mean ‘he pops out his teeth’?”
“He has these false teeth on the bottom, and sometimes he pops them out. They’re just sitting there on his bottom lip. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“He sounds like a real character.” Mary laughed.
“Oh, he is,” Amber agreed. “But he is a really nice guy.”
Back at home, Amber and her mom put on their new Easter outfits and gave a fashion show for Kyle and John. Mary strutted across the living room like a model while her husband whistled and clapped.
“Way to go, Mom,” Kyle called out. “You’ve still got the stuff.”
“Thanks,” Mary said. “I think.”
When it was Amber’s turn, she walked casually across the living room, looking at her shoes.
“Come on,” her dad called out. “Show us your model pose.”
Amber stopped and put one foot in front of the other, hands at her side as she had seen models do.
“That’s my girl,” her dad said with pride.
The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon