Ten years later, Danny is still present in my friend’s life. She hovers on the edge of every conversation and we have shared many wet faces over the years. Last year they moved to a new house and my friend had to pack up Danny’s room which had remained in the same condition as the day she had died. Her work schedule remained on her bed; her clothes hung neatly away, her makeup arranged on her dressing table. I don’t know how my friend managed, I didn’t want to ask, but I know it broke her heart. And ten years ago it helped in breaking mine.
Every time we met or talked on the phone brought a flood of tears and I was constantly wracked with grief. I was glad she was seeing a psychiatrist and going to meetings for parents who had lost their children. I felt so inadequate and at a loss to come up with words that might help. All I could do was offer my arms to wrap around her and hold her for brief moments of time. I hold tightly to my last vision of Danny, laughing with her friends in front of our store as they guiltily ate a box of chocolates. It is a precious memory for me.
Our store was in a large and popular mall in the big city and we had accepted the offer from the management to try out a poor location for a few years without a lease. It had proven to be a good idea and a good move from the downtown location where the store had been for 15 years. The mall management now approached my mother and I and talked to us about the plans the mall had. With the changes they had in mind, the large anchor store next to us would be moving and that space would be taken over by another large anchor store, but one that carried a much lower quality of merchandise. It meant that it would draw a different class of customer and one that wouldn’t be suitable to our higher class of merchandise.
You have to remember, my mother was a furrier and the business had originated as a fur store. Then PETA came along and put many furriers and trappers out of business and effectively wiped out many lives and livelihoods. We heard of many suicides in the fur industry. The business was in a quandary as sales of furs had slowed, and I was surprised when my parents listened to my suggestion of expanding our merchandise to include every type of coat made. That suggestion saved the business.
We carried a lovely selection of outerwear and insisted to our manufacturers that we would not carry the coats the large chains offered. And with that in mind, the mall management suggested a move to the other end of the mall where the higher-end anchor store was found. This move entailed an architect and a designer and we had to travel to Calgary to get the plans approved by the higher-ups who owned the mall. When the approval came, my mother turned to my brother and myself and told us to go and build it.
Normally, contractors are hired to do this work, but my mother would do anything to save money. My brother and I knew we needed more help and I insisted that D be part of the work crew and that he be paid. Then the three of us took possession of the keys to a vacated store, and we demolished it. Mall management expected us to move within 4 weeks, and we knew we were going to be pressed to our limits. But we didn’t know just how overextended we would become. We put in 18 hours every single day in an effort to build this store to the specifications, and four weeks stretched to six weeks before we had it completed. The three of us accomplished everything except for the electrical, the ceiling, and the front entrance. We called on our cousin to help with the flooring and a contractor built a beautiful curved counter and display case. D and I lived on cottage cheese and tuna on rice cakes for 6 weeks and our clothes hung on us when we were done. When my brother couldn’t eat that any longer, he headed down the mall and ate with Mom.
During the last days we ran everywhere in our attempt to get it all finished and the stock moved from one location to the other. Then we had to figure out how we were going to display it all and we rearranged the entire store multiple times.
Cut, bruised and exhausted, we opened the doors to a glorious reception.
(I'm sorry I do not have photos to show here - I looked everywhere for the four I know I have - but I couldn't find them. If I ever do - I'll post them.)