“You don’t understand me.” Jessica said. She wore a Christmas sweater and jeans suitcases sat on the floor near her feet.
The words pulled me from sleep. The image lingered I still felt her and saw her standing there. I rolled over, looked at the on the clock, then at my husband snoring.I got out of bed, went down stairs and made coffee. It’s the same for the three years since my daughter left home on harsh words.
I sat at the kitchen table looking out at the darkness. Christmas Eve Day and soon I’d be preparing a feast for my family. I’d instruct my daughter Lilly to set a plate for Jessica, so sure this year she’d return to me. Three years of wishing, hoping and praying she’d come home while keeping my family’s spirits up has taken a toll on me. Strong willed Jessica saw what she wanted and wouldn’t settle for less. She’d loved a man who was a mother’s worse nightmare. And I told her so.
“Honey?” Jake said rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “It’s early come to bed.”
“I’m awake,’ I said, holding my coffee cup out. “On my second cup of coffee and planning dinner,” I smiled at this rumpled sleepy giant of mine.
He put his arms around me and we both stared out the window into the darkness.
“She’s still angry. She has my temper remember.” His chin rested on the top of my head. These were the same words he said every year in an effort to prepare me for her not coming home.
“I know but you don’t leave.” I felt the tears and reigned them in I wasn’t going to do this again. “It’s alright.” I sighed, patting him on the arm.
“I could use some of that,” he released me for a cup of coffee.
When Jake sat down next to me, I knew what he was going to say. In three years, I’ve never joined a support group for women who lost their children. I filed a missing persons report, but my daughter was an adult and she packed and left. If she didn’t want to be found, that was her choice. No one could make a grown up call a loved one or make them realize the emotional slaughter they left in their wake. Not if they didn’t care.
“Honey maybe it’s time to let go.” Jake said.
I felt his eyes on me, but I didn’t turn. It was easier for him, because he did have the anger. I wasn’t angry and if I had been that day it was long gone now.
“Don’t make Lilly set a plate this year,” he continued reaching for my hand.
I pulled away and walked over to put my cup in the sink. I slowly turned around and looked at him.
“Love doesn’t give up.” “She left all of us, Diane, not just you.” he fisted hands around the cup.
“I pushed her at a difficult time. I should have known better.”
“You two pushed each others buttons. I don’t deny that, but she could’ve called.” He sighed and took me in his arms.
I let myself relax in his arms. He brought me moments of peace during this time. I wondered how much time would have to go by before my daughter would forgive me and come home. We all believed she was out there and all right. No one believed anything bad happened to her; we refused to believe anything bad happened to her. Besides a word from one of her friends here or there would get back to us, so we knew for sure she was out there living a life just not sharing it with her family.
“Okay, since we’re up I’m preparing my special cinnamon sticky buns for breakfast.” He said, holding me at arms length.
“Sounds good, the kids love them and I’ll be happy for the help.” Jake could whip up a great bun and a pretty good breakfast. “I’ll leave you to it.”
I looked in Lilly’s room and then Tommy’s on the way to Jake’s and my room. They slept the sleep of the peaceful. If only I could manage half their sleep, I thought. Maybe I should just let Jess go. How does a Mother do that? I decided to put it in the back of my mind. I took a hot shower and dressed to start the day.
When I returned to the kitchen Lilly, Tommy and Jake were drinking juice eating eggs, bacon and sticky buns. I poured myself coffee and joined them.
“Grandma called and said they’d be over around four.” Lilly informed between bites of food.
“Santa’s coming tonight,” Tommy added licking sticky icing off his fingers.
“Yes Santa’s coming, but only after you fall asleep.” I told my six year old.
“I can go to sleep now.” He gave us a toothy smile.
Tommy always made me smile.
“No time to sleep today, Buddy. You and I have last minute shopping to do.” Jake reached over and rubbed Tommy on the head.
“I’m ready, Dad.” Tommy declared chewing on bacon.
“Great they shop and we cook and clean.” Lilly pouted.
I decided to let her off the hook. “Lilly you go with your Father and brother. Do some shopping too.”
“Really, you wouldn’t mind Mom?” She bit her lip.
I realized how much I depended on Lilly since Jess left. I reached over and gave her a hug. “No Baby, I don’t mind. Go and have fun.”
Jake smiled at me from across the table.
“Then it’s settled, everyone eat up we’ll need our strength to shop.” Jake and the kids grabbed more sticky buns.
I watched as the car pulled out of the driveway, then returned to the mess in the kitchen to clean up.A few hours passed when I put the final touches on my lasagna for the evening meal and I heard the door open and close.
“In the kitchen,” I yelled knowing it was too early for my shoppers to be home 0r for my parents and sister’s family to arrive. It must be a neighbor; I continued putting things together.
“Need some help, Mom?”
I knew the voice. I looked out the kitchen window at the beautiful California Christmas Eve Day and wondered if I imagined it.
“Mom?” she said again.
I turned to Jessica standing there. She looked thinner and tired wherever she had been the years had not been kind.
“Jess,” I whispered. “are you home?”
“Yes, if that’s okay?” she cocked her head.
Emotions flooded inside me, happy, angry, relief; I went with relief.
“Baby,” I held out my arms knowing whatever happened, wherever she had been, it didn’t matter. I gave her a hug and felt the piece of my heart that was missing fall back into place. My daughter was home. This Christmas would truly be a new beginning.