We pass vehicles, shiny ones and ones dirty from the road salt, some parked carefully, and some with bumpers over the painted lines. We walk towards the looming building which is flanked by reflective sets of double doors. A car horn sounds across the lot.
I hold my niece’s warm, tiny hand in mine. My sleek white cane balances in my other. Her winter coat rustles as she wipes at her face with her free hand, an absentminded gesture. She gazes at other mall-goers.
Stockton reaches the doors first, pushing the access button and maneuvering the stroller carrying our nephew over the threshold. We follow him. A burst of heat hits our faces. Once inside, I plan to search for tissues. I leave the flow of foot traffic and stand next to the wall. I open my bag, storing my cane in the crook of my elbow.
“Aunt Susan, why do you use that when we walk?” Her voice is genuine, curious. The best kind of question. I have talked with her before about the cane, but I don’t expect a three-year-old to remember, especially when she’s fighting a cold.
“My eyes don’t work as well as yours do sweetie. It helps me find stairs and bumps.’ I say, looking into her face as she looks up at me. “It tells me where they are so I don’t trip.”
She seems to nod. She stares at flashy store windows and busy shoppers. Question answered, moving on.
I fish a few tissues from my bag and offer her one. She bobs her head in acceptance. We tidy up and then give Stockton the go ahead. The floor seems to sparkle in the lights. Hands are held. The white cane moves when we do, together.