I went for a walk at lunch through the rough and tumble and tumult of city Christmas shopping. There were people everywhere with bundles of shopping, many of them wearing some kind of Christmas insignia, and one and all the department stores and arcades had Christmas muzak piped in.

I negotiated my way through the crowds and ended up at the Dymocks bookstore in Collins Street. It was crowded with shoppers looking for Christmas gifts and holiday reading fare, and queues of them snaking around and back to the cash registers. I browsed the shelves as I have a million times before plucking new novels from the shelves, reading the blurb and sometimes flicking through the pages to get a feel for it. One or two I made mental notes of.

As I shifted from one column of books to the next I found myself next to a woman in her late sixties. She had a full head of dark hair beautifully styled. Her clothes were those of a woman who takes pride in her appearance. She had a friendly look on her face. Though my mum was blonde, I was reminded of her. Reaching in front of her for a book I excused myself. She shifted out of the way and turning gave me a warm smile.

What’s less than a pang, but more than nothing at all? Whatever it is that’s what I felt. A twinge. Though it was only a twinge it went deep. She was just like mum.

Mum is closer in mind at this time of year than at any other. It’s not just because Christmas is a family time – mum loved Christmas like a child. She took joy from the ritual and ceremony, and above all the pleasure of others. There was an innocence to her at Christmas that never failed to endear.

Upstairs a trio played Christmas carols, the singer out front with her rich voice warbling old familiars, the music descending to the basement where we stood. The woman next to me went by, gently touching me on the shoulder as she did. That’s what I won’t have this Christmas, I thought. I felt a subtle gratitude towards the woman. Though there was some regret I was glad to remember, glad to be reminded, and glad to think the likes of my mum lives on in others.

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