“Well, it is…” Carmen is standing in the middle of my living room, lips twitching.
I cross my arms. “Is what?”
I snort. Yep. That’s me making that sound.
“Oh, come on, Amy! Every piece of furniture that’s been given to you is of good quality. You’ll figure out a way to tie it all together. In the meantime, you have a table.” She gestures towards my Christmas tree decorators. Emily, Emile, Tara, and Amir are seated at said table, chatting and snacking on popcorn and Christmas cookies.
I can’t help but smile. They’ve been working hard -- cutting, taping, stringing, painting…
Carmen nods, as if I’d spoken. “See how nice? Your workers would have been sitting on the floor.”
They’re kids. They wouldn’t have cared. I stare at her, hoping to convey how unimpressed I am with her reasoning.
She continues. “Your parents are sweet. I’m glad I got to meet them before they left. And admit it, you were relieved to have your dad’s help with the Christmas lights.”
I heave a sigh. “Yes, they’re sweet, and I was relieved, although I was excited about doing it myself. But I’m beginning to realize that even my family has issues.”
“Why are you surprised? All families do. It’s a fact of life.”
“Is it?” I sound grumpy even to myself.
“Yes, and we love them anyway, just as they love us. Right?” Her turn to cross her arms.
Not feeling it… I mean, I'm grateful. Really, I am.
I was just hoping to hang onto “my mad” a little longer.
My parents did drive a long way for me. And true, Dad helped with the lights. A lot. And Mom brought several containers of my favorite meals.
I know they love me.
I love them, too.
Carmen nudges my shoulder with hers. "Right, Amy?"
Another sigh... Truth.
“Amy, I’m sorry, but that tree is pitiful. Don’t look at me like that. It’s the truth.”
I’m trying so hard not to glare at my mom. And clearly not succeeding.
“Mama, as I mentioned on the phone, I was planning to decorate this weekend.”
“Don’t worry, honey. You’ll still be able to. We’re not spending the night.”
And now I feel like a jerk.
“You can’t go back tonight. It's a long drive! You can have my bed. I'll sleep on the sofa you drove all this way to give me.”
Katie's old sofa, which is a neutral color, like the blanket she gave me, still in excellent condition. And an old, small dining room set they had stored in their barn...
I might like it. Eventually...
I know I should feel grateful, not mad. I know it, but...
Mom smiles and shakes her head. “Thank you, honey. Not this trip. We have plans after church tomorrow. I just couldn’t stand the thought of you not having a stick of furniture in your house. Except…”
She looks at my diwan, then back at me, one eyebrow raised.
I don’t appreciate the implied criticism. My house. My diwan.
“My neighbors surprised me.”
It’s going to be a long day.
Cool, clear, and sunny – what a gorgeous walk! It seems like the whole neighborhood is playing outside today. That’s the weekend for you! Of course, lots of people are hanging Christmas lights or supervising the hanging thereof. And I’m about to do the same. Nothing too ambitious this year. I’ve helped Dad in the past, but I’ve never done it alone before. I’m definitely excited.
And definitely nervous.
Whoa. What? Is that…my dad’s truck in my driveway?
As I get closer, my parents pop out, all smiles.
“Surprise, honey!” My mom hurries towards me, her arms outstretched.
“Mama! Hi!” I hug her back, confused, then turn towards my dad. He’s not a hugger. But his smile is warm and sweet, his blue eyes twinkling. Could I not have inherited his eyes? He pats me on the back when I stretch up to kiss his cheek. “Hi, Daddy.”
“You called me from the road? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
“We wanted to surprise you.” Mama winks. “And we didn’t want to give you the chance to say no.”
I wouldn’t have said no, even if I wanted to.
But yeah, it might have crossed my mind. I’m glad to see them, but…
Why are they here?
Then I see it, the back of the truck… Oh, no…
“You’ve brought me furniture?”
“I’m fine, Mom. Really. I’m going to decorate this weekend. It’ll be fun.”
Now to convince myself.
Pitiful attitude, Amy. Just stick with the plan and you’ll be fine.
Outside today, inside tomorrow.
And tomorrow, I’ll have help!
I love my neighbors – at least, the ones I’ve met so far!
Ladder, Christmas lights, Christmas wreath supplies…
I’m going for a walk.
No Christmas lights outside!
A fall wreath on the front door!
You’re losing it, Amy!
Kind words! Do NOT panic!
Why am I panicking? I have all weekend.
Enough time, surely.
Samira moves beside me. “You know, the wood is very good and solid. And Ma had it re-caned not long ago. It’s in great condition.”
“I can see that.” Truth.
Ungrateful brat! Yes, you, Amy!
Why the sudden need to clear my throat?
“Mrs. Patel, now that I have a nice seat to offer you, how about a cup of tea? It was the first thing I bought at the grocery store after your last visit.”
They all laugh because last time, which had been the first time, I could only offer coffee or water. The elder had suggested, “perhaps a cup of tea?” But no. No tea. No place to sit. Nada.
“Thank you, Amy, but I can’t.” Samira starts backing towards the front door. “I need to get back to the kids. School tomorrow.”
Mrs. Patel smiles at me. “Thank you, dear. That’s so kind. But Samira's right, it’s getting late.” Dubious glance at my Christmas tree. “We’ll leave you to your decorating.”
They seem surprised -- and pleased -- by my hugs and thanks. The evening breeze is cool and crisp as I wave goodbye from my front porch.
Inside, my Christmas tree twinkles at me. Pulling my soft, new throw blanket from my bed, I settle onto my diwan and watch the lights.
“It’s called a diwan,” Grandma Patel explains as Neal and Jay set it beside the fireplace, opposite the Christmas tree.
“Some people might say ‘divan,’” Samira adds.
“Yes.” Mrs. Patel nods. “Or settee. You will need cushions, of course. What color scheme do you have in mind?”
Even if I did…
Say something, Amy! Something smart. And vague!
“I… Thank you. I have a few different combinations in mind.”
“You can dress it up or down. It’s very versatile.”
I really don’t think that it is.
Grandma Patel, Neal and Samira, and their eldest son Jay are standing on my front porch.
“Good afternoon, Amy.” Grandma Patel speaks crisply, making me realize that I’ve gone slack-jawed.
I snap my mouth shut before attempting a smile.
Her smile is bright and sincere. “We’ve brought you something. It’s something I’ve treasured enough to move it around the world from India to England to here. But Neal and Samira really don’t have room for it. I want you to have it.”
“Oh, I…” I glance at Samira. Her expression can only be described as apologetic, her hands clasped tightly in front of her.
I turn back to Grandma. “Thank you, but I can’t accept anything so large or valuable.”
“Nonsense.” She steps towards me, towards the door.
I don’t move.
“Mrs. Patel, I can’t.”
“Amy, you can and you will. It’s meant to be. I know it isn’t modern, but it’s very comfortable and will suit any room.”
But will it really?
Yep. Leave it to me have a Christmas tree before I have furniture. At least there’s plenty of room. Too many options, in fact.
I’m still not sure I shouldn’t have left it up front, where the lights could show from the windows at night. But I would hardly ever see it. Anyway, I’m not dragging it back to the whatever-it-is flex space. It was hard enough dragging it here!
Way to make up your mind, Amy.
I need a lot more ornaments. Poor Christmas Tree looks pretty bare. At least Callista’s ornaments have center stage– a macaroni Christmas tree and clothespin angel. The best.
“Mrs. Patel? Hi…”
What in the world…
Phew! All done!
Who would’ve thought so much could fit into my little car? Mom would’ve added a sofa or kitchen table if possible! Her face when I let it slip that I don’t have any furniture yet…
Not funny, Amy. She’s worried about you!
But there’s no need to worry about me. Standing on my driveway, gazing at my adorable house, I couldn’t feel prouder, happier, or more grateful. It took a lot of talking to get my family to understand that. It took even more to make them understand that I want to choose my own furniture and buy it myself when I’m ready.
I’m not a kid, anymore. I’m not a student. Nor am I living in a cheap, little apartment.
I have a house. A whole house.
And I have a Christmas tree! Genius idea, stopping by the hardware store in our little town on my way out. True, not much of a selection, but no long lines, either.
And I also have Thanksgiving leftovers, books from my old room, and a tote of Christmas decorations to which everyone donated – which is kind of cool and includes a couple of special ornaments crafted by my niece.
And the really nice throw blanket my sister insisted I need for my sofa. I’m not sure what to do with it. True, it’s super soft and cozy and a nice, neutral color, but I haven’t decided if I want neutral colors.
And I don’t have a sofa.