What to Give Mama?

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Hannah Maria Estevez clutched her purse in her hand and followed Papa down the aisle. She walked very slowly because there was so much to see. Glittery Christmas decorations. Shelves and shelves of fascinating things for sale. And interesting people everywhere.

Hannah liked Christmas shopping with Papa. She liked going to the mall, just the two of them. She liked taking all the time she needed to look at everything she wanted to look at. Mama shopped like an arrow. She always knew exactly what she wanted, and she went straight for it. Papa let Hannah shop more like the breeze. In no hurry to get anywhere.

Hannah stopped beside a rack of sweaters. She fingered the pretty red one hanging in front. The soft wool felt just like a cloud. Well, it felt like what Hannah imagined a cloud would feel like if she could actually touch one.

“Nice sweater,” Papa said. He looked at the little white tag that was sewn at the back of the sweater’s neck. “Wool and angora,” he read. “No wonder it’s so soft.”

“What’s angora?” Hannah asked.

“I think it’s the hair from angora rabbits,” Papa said. “Those rabbits have very long hair. They are combed or brushed, and the hair that comes out is spun into yarn. It’s very, very soft.”

“Mama would like it,” Hannah said. She looked for the price tag. “It costs a lot!” she exclaimed.

“I thought it might,” Papa said, laughing.

“I don’t know what to get Mama for Christmas!” Hannah said. “I want to get her something nice. And I want to get Baby Paulo a present—and you a present too,” she added. “And everything costs a lot of money! And I don’t have a lot of money!”

“I understand completely,” Papa said. They left the department store and wandered out to the middle of the mall. Hannah dodged out of the way of a tired-looking mother pushing a stroller.

“Look,” Papa said. “There’s that new local artisan’s shop I read about in the newspaper. Do you want to go in and see it?”

“What’s an artisan?” Hannah asked.

“Like an artist,” Papa explained. “Everything for sale in that shop was made by people who live in our area.”

Hannah stopped just inside the entrance next to a display of wind chimes of all sizes. She gently poked one of the big ones and listened to the beautiful, deep tones it produced as it swayed. She jiggled one of the little wind chimes and listened to the soft, tinkly tones. “I think Mama would like these,” she said. Hannah looked at the price tag on the smallest set of wind chimes. “They cost too much money,” she said sadly.

There were all kinds of things for sale in the artisan’s shop. Handsome handmade chairs and tables. Brilliantly colored, hand-painted fabric. Rows and rows of hand-spun wool. Wonderful smelling beeswax candles.

“Look at these rocks!” Hannah exclaimed. A whole shelf full of ordinary-looking, gray river rocks sat along the back of the shop. They were ordinary rocks, except for one thing. Each rock had words carved in it. “My garden,” one rock read. “I love you,” another rock read. “The Lord is my Rock,” read the third one.

“Mama would love these!” Hannah said, her finger traced the deeply carved letters.

“Yes, she would,” Papa agreed.

Hannah looked at the little round price tags that were stuck on each rock. “They cost a lot of money!” she breathed. “I’ll never find anything for Mama that I can afford!”

Hannah dragged along after Papa through the rest of the shop. Papa admired hand-tooled leather belts and vests. He looked at jars of pickled peppers and sampled fiery hot sauce on a tortilla chip. Hannah’s mind was still on the special rocks. She could just imagine Mama putting one next to her favorite rosebush beside the back door.

“I know what!” Hannah shouted.

Papa looked startled. So did the sample lady behind her big bag of tortilla chips.

Hannah’s face turned red. “I have an idea,” she whispered. “We could get a rock from the river. And I could paint it! And I could write something special on it that Mama would like! I can’t carve words, but I could write words with black permanent marker!”

Papa smiled. “I think that’s a very good idea,” he said.

“Can we go get paint right now?” Hannah asked, bouncing on her toes. “I want light blue paint, the color of the sky.”

“OK,” Papa agreed. “What are you going to write on Mama’s rock?”

“I already know!” Hannah said. “I’m going to write part of my new memory verse. ‘Not one of the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled,’” she recited. “When we read my lesson, Mama said she really liked that verse. She said it was very meaningful.”

“Perfect!” Papa said.

“Do you think Mama would put the rock in her garden?” Hannah asked.

“If we get waterproof paint, I don’t see why not,” Papa answered.

“Let’s get it now!” Hannah said, tugging on Papa’s hand. “Right now!

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