Crowded shopping malls and finger nails across a chalk board have the same effect on me. My sisters, Jenny and Ava, invited me to go shopping with them. S.M. gave me a stern warning on not spending any money. Unlike my mom, Jenny and Ava are hardly evangelistic when it comes to Mormonism and more like Jack Mormons than devout. Ava is still the free spirit and Jenny is solid and dependable, but their conversations are around their children, their husbands, family, and the latest celebrity gossip.

I’m still amazed that Ava married at all. She is such a free spirit that she goes with what feels good rather than what is good. Ava’s husband, Jack, is rumored to really struggle to keep her from overspending. Two years ago, Ava got them into deep credit card debt. Mom and Dad had to bail them out of their house payment that month, and Jack cut up her cards, restricting her to cash and taking her name off of the checking account.

“Did you hear that Janie is coming out next month?” Jenny said as we wound through the crowded mall. She and Ava left the kids with mom earlier that day. We had hoped for a girls day, and mom was only too happy to spend time with her grandchildren.

“No, I didn’t.” Janie was a cousin. I liked her as a cousin, but she grew up agnostic and only recently joined the Mormon church. I believe Janie joined because Mormonism was a family tradition.

“I can’t wait. She’s the fun cousin.” Ava laughed after she said this, and I knew she was recalling the fond memories of the mischief she and Ava got into when we were kids. “So hard to believe Janie is now a mom. I still think of all of us at the parties, you know.”

Janie’s teenage daughter, Bailee, was so inspired by the missionaries in their ward that she is looking seriously at becoming one. I’ve been so long out of the Mormon church that I didn’t recall if women could become missionaries, but I didn’t dare go there. My heart felt sad for Bailee and Janie; the whole family, in fact. I wanted to weep when I saw their photos at the church. They are quite a charismatic family, always posting pictures of family time, what they own, and how happy they are in their life. I hope they are at a point in their life where this is not the end of the line, but a place where they are passing through as they seek to know God.

“Where are you, Sarah, dear?” Jenny waved a hand in front of my face. “You look so sad.”

I laughed to deflect their concern and to hide my own. “I’m fine. I was just thinking that S.M. didn’t allow me to spend any money, except for a cup of tea at the shop we like to eat at.”

Ava puckered her lip and made a face as she said, “I know the feeling. Jack took my debit card.”

“Dad’s party went well on Saturday.” Jenny changed the subject.

We stopped in front of Victoria’s Secret. I admired some really comfortable pajamas.

“Sam didn’t show up.” Ava said. “Dad seemed bummed.”

“Why wouldn’t he?” Jenny scoffed. She wasn’t looking at the Pajamas, but searching her purse for something. “Mom and Dad gave in…again.”

Ava got quiet as did the rest of us. People walked around us carrying different colored shopping bags, kids laughed or screamed, and the kiosk that sold noisy toys were doing demonstrations not far from where we stood in front of the display window of Victoria’s Secret.

“I remember when we four kids would go off into the park, pretending we were off on some great adventure.” Ava said quietly.

“I remember.” I could see us in that memory. “It wasn’t a wood, but the trees that covered that one hillside gave us enough cover to make us think we were in some enchanted land.”

“Mom and Dad couldn’t see us from the picnic table.” Jenny chuckled as she found what she was looking for in her purse–a tube of chapstick.

“Sam was the knight to slay the dragons and we were the princesses.” I could picture the stick he would find on the ground that became his “sword.”

“He’s not so knightly.” Ava’s eyes were glassy.

“Hey, it’s girls night. Cheer up!” Jenny said. She pointed towards our favorite coffee shop. “Time for coffee.”

“Tea.” I laughed as I said this.

“Is she really our sister?” Ava giggled as we walked toward the shop. Sam’s troubles were not forgotten, but we were the three princesses on our way to tea (or coffee, in their case).

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