Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas gold

     It's early morning, two days after Christmas. I'm standing in my childhood bedroom, looking out the window, watching the snow fall. It's time to leave. 
     I pack. I shove dirty laundry into my bag and place it by the door next to a pile of unwanted gifts. Did I forget anything? I look in the bathroom and at the table next to the bed. No. I load the car. The cold air wakes me up and makes me keenly aware of my need for coffee. I will score some when I'm on the road. I'm in an urgent, ready-to-move-forward state. I want to leave now, right now, but first I have to say goodbye to Mom and Dad.
     I walk back upstairs. I can hear Dad snoring in their room. Mom opens the door, surprising me. Her quilted robe is neatly wrapped around her, showing off a wedge of fuzzy pink pajamas at her collar. She looks fresh. She has probably been awake for hours, silently playing games on her iPad.
     "Time to go?" she asks.
     "Yep. The car's packed. I put the sheets in the wash." 
    "Did you check the bathroom?"
     "Yep. All set. Should we wake Dad?" He's still snoring beyond the door.
     "Yes. Oh, wait. I want to give you something. I almost forgot!" She holds up her index finger and then darts back into their room. 
     A minute passes. I walk downstairs and wait in the living room. I look around. The furniture and pictures have not changed in years. The room feels worn out--old. It even smells old. My parents sit in here every day. They are old enough to smell old. I realize the furniture is just soaking in their smell.
      Mom eventually finds me downstairs. She is holding something in the palm of her hand. She uncurls her fingers. "Here," she says a little breathlessly. "I want you to have this."
      It is a gold ring, one that she has always worn. It is featured in my first memories of her hands. I automatically reject it. "No, Mom."
     "But it doesn't fit me anymore. I've wanted you to wear it."
    She holds up the thick gold band stacked with diamonds and a sapphire. I look at it and then at myself. I'm wearing my standard jeans and a t-shirt. My hair is in a ponytail.
     "I really appreciate it, Mom, but I don't want it." I sort of spread my arms out as if to say, look at me, it doesn't go with this.
     "I thought you could wear it as a cocktail ring." She puts the ring on my index finger. It's too big. She starts to cry.
     I look at the front door. I look out the window. The snow has stopped falling. I am ready to leave. I do not want to take one more thing. "Sorry Mom, but I don't want the ring. I've never liked it. It's not me." I hug her and then pat her on the back. "I love you. I gotta go."
     "I know. I know you hate it." She cries harder. Her shoulders shake. "I miss you. You're my little girl."
     I hold her. "Aww, Mom." I'm not little. I'm forty-five, although I feel like I revert to my thirteen-year-old self any time I visit my parents.
     "I know you still love me even if you don't want my ring."
    "Of course, Mom!" I rub circles on her back. I listen. There's an absence of sound coming from the bedroom. My dad must be awake, but  he won't come out now. "Okay?" I pull away from my mom.
     "I just miss you so much and want to show you."
     "You do, Mom, in lots of other ways. I'll call you when I get home, okay?"
     She wipes her cheeks and then wipes her hands on the pink fuzz of her pajamas and smiles at me.
     I leave. I drive away and look for coffee.

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