1989: The Return

Mom’s navy blue pump catches on the doorjamb as enters our hotel room. Once inside, she peeks from left to right. Kitchenette, television, bathroom, tweed couch, and bedroom. What if she’s sad because we live in a stupid hotel instead of a real house like the McCarthy’s or the Thompson’s? What if she leaves again like last time?

Instead Mom arranges her luggage on the bed and faces Dad with a beaming smile. He returns the smile. “Deborah, I’m so happy you’re home from California. This is going to be the best thing for our daughter, you know. She needs a woman. She needs a mother.”

Pretending not to hear him, Mom squeals, “Tommy, come here! I want to show you some of the gifts I brought back for you. They’re all from the Casual Male shop in Cali where I worked as assistant manager. I’m going to miss it out there, but I got a fabulous deal on all these clothes for you.”

Dad soaks up the attention as Mom pulls out new silk shirts for him. “If we’re going to be together, Thomas, I want you to look good. More like when I met you.”

“Oh yeah, I used to dress good back then.” Dad turns toward me. “Your mother always liked my khaki suits, Jenny. Of course those were the days when you were just a figment of our imagination.”

Dad winks at Mom. She grins back and rolls her eyes. “Oh, Thomas! You were a bad boy.” Why do they get along now? They fought so much when Daddy would call her on the payphone every week last year.

Mom holds shirts and pants up against Dad’s frame while he talks with his hands. This is kind of boring.

I zone off toward the large mirror that hangs opposite my bed. Where you stuffed your nightgown last week after watching the Huxtables. Dad almost caught you admiring your chest when he woke up after his four-hour nap. I shudder at the memory while Mom feels around the bottom of her suitcase and pulls out two silk ties. “Tommy, I know you don’t like ties, but these were each a hundred and fifty dollars.”

Dad grabs one tie from Mom’s hand. He inspects it carefully. “You know me so well, Deborah. I don’t usually wear ties, but I love this one. The colors are perfect. That, and the fact that you bought it for me.” When he lays it on the bed, I see the chocolate brown and blue swirly design.

He’s so happy. Wonder what Mom brought back for you?

Patiently, I await Mom’s gifts. I’m here, Mom. I missed you.

“Tommy. Hold up! I’m not done, yet.” Dad turns back toward me. He looks sorry somehow.

Mom continues, “Here’s the best one!” She pulls out a buttery-yellow leather backpack. It’s perfect. I love purses and bags!

My eyes grow wide. Dad eyes grow wide. “Yes it’s real leather, Tommy. Go ahead. Feel it.” Wait? It’s for him?

“Jesus. Deborah. You must have paid four hundred for this.” Mom doesn’t seem to care about money today. “It was a lot, but I wanted you to have it.” She unsnaps the two outer pockets, but the moment has passed.

I hang my head. She forgot about you. But that’s okay. She’s back. Hope they won’t act like this all the time.

“Jenny Penny! Mom brought a little something back for you too.” I knew it. She didn’t forget you! Maybe your bag is pink or purple?

She pulls out a small stuffed bear with a red ribbon tied around his neck. I don’t immediately walk toward her. So she brings the fuzzy animal to me.

I look up at her. Not exactly what you wished for. “Thank you, Mom.”

“Of course, honey. Mom wouldn’t forget about you.” Her copper ringlets graze my cheek as she leans forward to kiss my forehead.

Dad motions to her. “Hey Deb, we better hang these shirts and things up. I don’t want any of this stuff you paid a fortune for getting wrinkled to shit.”

“Good point, Tommy.” Mom turns on her heel and heads back toward Dad’s pile of gifts.

While she attends to the chore, Dad leans over and whispers in my ear. “Don’t worry. That backpack will be yours one day, Jenny.”

I glance toward one buttery yellow strap that hangs off the edge of the bed. You can wait.

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