My mom heard a voice, a quiet voice, calling for her to come.
Mom was leaving the market, and she was carrying grocery sacks weighted down by ice cream. The sun puddled hot on that Minnesota parking lot, where the smell of spruce and asphalt mingled in the muggy air. And somewhere a weak voice kept calling to her: Come here. Please? Could you come here?
The voice. It came from an old, white station wagon parked by the front door. The passenger window was rolled down, and the woman inside was old, frail — not more than 100 pounds. She was alone.
“Are you talking to me?” my mom asked.
The woman in the station wagon nodded her head, crowned with hair as white as the vanilla in Mom’s grocery sack.
Mom — a woman who doesn’t know a stranger — walked to the open window, leaned her head inside and smiled.
“How can I help you?” Mom asked.
And this woman, she just wanted one little thing: “Would you give me something to hold? I don’t have anything to hold and I want something that I can call my own.“
Mom’s mind raced. She wished she had a pocket stone or one of the Beanie Babies that she used to keep in the trunk of car — small, stuffed gifts for the grandkids when they came to visit.
But she had nothing, except a half-gallon of vanilla and boxes of ice-cream sandwiches. Nothing at all for the woman to hold. Mom told her this, but the woman replied:
“Well, I could hold your hands.”
Five hours later, we’re on the deck when Mom tells us this story, just after we arrived here in Minnesota for a visit at their cabin. Tears pool in her eyes, as she tells us what happened in a grocery-store parking lot.
Because don’t we all want to be loved? Don’t we all need someone to hold? Life presses down hard in this world — this frazzled, harried, got-to-get-it-done world. In the rush, everything can feel like it’s slipping through our fingers. And because we’re afraid of what might melt, we can’t let go of this thing in our hands. What might we risk with empty hands?
Sun melts orange across the western sky, as Mom tells her story. I hear a loon, a lone cry from the wild.
Yes, Mom had set down her bags on the hot pavement of that grocery-store parking lot that afternoon. And yes, the bags were filled with ice-cream treats for my girls. And yes, she reached her empty hands into the car to find the hands of another — one small act of emptying and refilling.
They held hands, and the woman smiled, and for eight minutes, they stood that way — hands cupped together as ice cream melted in sacks.
Mom told the woman: I hope I see you again sometime.
And the woman said she hoped so, too.
On the deck, Anna hears the part about the ice cream, and asks if she can have some.
(It still tasted good. Maybe even better.)
Joining Ann Voskamp today, who asks us to consider the Practice of Love.