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.
Jingle Bells, jingle bells…
Ahh. Christmas music. A perfect follow-up to the Christmas romance I just finished listening to.
Will I ever meet my Mr. Perfect-for-Me?
Seriously? Why, Amy? Why?
And why, after a wonderful visit and a satisfying audiobook, am I suddenly feeling down?
Thanksgiving with my family -- now that was perfect! It was so good to see everyone. The kids are great and so much fun! And to think my grandparents are still hanging in there! They’re all getting really old, but oh, so much love. I’m ashamed that I even considered missing seeing my family just to shop. Ugh! Talk about skewed priorities.
I wonder if that’s how God feels on Sundays. Or other holy days. Or when we don’t think of Him at all.
And aren't we pensive today... Where’d that come from?
Silent night, holy night…
It takes Christmas music to remind you of God, Amy?
“Are you okay?” A woman is beside me yanking earpods from her ears. She has big, brown eyes, super short, curly hair, and smooth, ebony skin. She’s older than me and in great shape. Beautiful.
She touches my arm, her face a picture of concern.
I shrug, unable to speak for the tears clogging my throat.
“Oh, honey. Are you hurt?”
I shake my head.
She rubs my arm and waits.
“I can’t run…” My voice sounds pitiful. Weak. Like me.
“Are you hurt?” she repeats. “Look at me, baby.”
I force myself to look up from my running shoes.
“Why can’t you run?” Her voice is quiet, gentle.
“I’m…I’m out of shape.” My voice returns, harsh and angry, opposite of hers. “Fat.”
I hear, actually hear her intake of breath.
“No,” she says. “Walk with me? Which way were you going?”
“To the gym.”
Here I am, running – or is it jogging – to the gym. Running off Carmen’s hot chocolate and that last slice of Samira’s bundt cake that was this morning's breakfast. Running to forestall extra holiday pounds. Just a few days till Thanksgiving!
It feels great out this evening. I’m so thankful that the days are finally cooling down and I can wear my sweats without melting.
Free. Light. Free. Light.
Aww, those two little squirrels look like they’re having a serious chat in the middle of the street. Take it to the sidewalk, guys!
And I’m not going to make it to the next intersection… I have to stop and catch my breath. Drat! After this, I’ll still have a major street to cross and maybe ten blocks to go, give or take.
This is going to take forever.
Pathetic! You are PATHETIC, Amy!
Do not cry.
Kind thoughts. Kind thoughts!
How can I be kind to a slobby sloth?
“You are a guru.”
Carmen laughs. “You are worrying over nothing.”
The hot chocolate is rich, thick, and cinnamony, with just a hint of chile. A revelation in itself.
The twins finished theirs and are playing with little Jose. He is sooo cute, all bright eyes and chubby cheeks.
Fluttery gesture… Is that my hand doing that?
“It’s easy for you to say. You have a beautiful home. Filled with furniture, I might add.”
“But we’ve been here for almost ten years. It didn’t happen in a day and you shouldn’t expect it to, either. Emile, easy with your brother!” Carmen redirects a sudden, stern look at me. “Family is important, and yours is close. You can be with them. You can play with your niece…Callista? And her baby brother, spend time with your parents. Even if you don’t decorate this year, so what? You just moved in. It's your life, Amy. Don’t allow social media, consumer culture, or even your neighbors to dictate how you live it.”
My life. Mine...
“Like I said, guru...”
Carmen winks. “We’ll only talk about you a little if you go.”
“Carmen, where do you call home?”
“Yeah, sorry. Hi.”
“What was the question?”
“Where’s home to you? Mexico? Here?”
“Both! Why do you ask?”
“But if you had to be both places at once, what would you do?”
“Well, I’d obviously have to choose.”
“Which one? How do you choose?”
“Amy, why don’t you come over? I’m making hot chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate, the old-fashioned way. You’ll love it.”
“Of course, neighbor. Come!”