I went for a leisurely walk at Stanford Shopping Center the day after Thanksgiving with my niece Veronica, her husband Willie and their son Stevie. I hadn’t done that since the start of the pandemic, and it felt so good. With the crisp air that vibrated with Christmas music along the hallways, it felt quite festive. With nostalgia, I realized then how I had missed walking the Stanford mall, an occasional pastime that I enjoyed with my husband before he passed.
After a hearty meal of vegetable spring rolls, fried calamari, wonton soup, crispy honeyed shrimps, pepper steak, braised eggplant, sweet and sour shrimps and combination fried rice at PF Chang, walking at the Stanford Shopping Center was the best healthy option, we decided. Stevie lighted up. He hoped to visit Laderach, the candy store that he thought had the best chocolate varieties. Bring me to that store, I chirped. I’m like a kid in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory when I’m in a candy store. The caveat was, it would take many steps to the parking lot and the shopping center, and with my sciatica — would my crutch and me endure? The kid in me won.
Stevie was happy.
So there we were, meeting the crowds of Black Friday shoppers, slowly forging our way to what was the highlight of our day. The candy store did not disappoint. Shelves of inviting sweet delectables arranged decoratively on the walls, a smiling lady holding a tray of sample bits, and a line of eager customers greeted us. You can guess what we aimed for first – the samples.
Now, after a hefty Chinese meal, something soothingly sweet in my palate would balance the spicy flavor still lingering in my mouth. So, I excitedly reached out for the hazelnut chocolate and quickly shoved it in for a slow chew, until my tongue wiped the velvety sediments that melted away in my mouth. That was enough treat for me. But for young Stevie who walked out of the store with two purchased medium sized boxes of Laderach, we adults were perfectly content with the free samples.
The slow walk enabled us to enjoy the window displays and scrutinize the merchandise decked to the utmost to appeal and entice. We passed the attractive come-ons without regret. After all, our target was La Boulangerie in the center of the mall, beside the Christmas station for Santa and the kids. Choosing between the spongy cakes and sweet bread was horrendously difficult. We opted for the almond bread twist; it was perfect with the brew. The tables and chairs outside the café were all taken. The bench was warm enough, but Veronica’s husband Willie was quick with spotting customers that got up from their table. We ended up comfortably seated, enjoying the ambience and people watching as we relaxed and sipped our lattes.
Black Friday shopping? For us four, we ventured out on a commercially super busy day for the perk of a hearty late lunch, a leisurely walk among the rushing crowds at Stanford Shopping Center, the snail-paced window shopping, an electrifying stopover at the candy store, people watching, happily sipping of lattes and coffee blends – and listening to Christmas music that reverberated on the hallways. Our most delightful bonus after Thanksgiving.
Linda P. Jacob