The 10 minute drive home was silent. Mom gripping the wheel with both hands, as if ice coated the road. Her gaze fixed forward. I sat in the front passenger seat waiting for an explanation. None came. When we pulled up to the house, I spied Dad and Molly coming out of the barn. Actually Molly was running full speed towards us and Dad, slowly walking across the driveway, was yelling for her to watch out for the car. I hadn't seen my little sister that excited about anything or anybody since the first time she saw Charles.
It's not every house that is haunted and not every day you see a ghost. Her first time, in the library right after we discovered Martha living in the nursing home, I thought she was going to jump out of her skin. She was just about out of her skin again, waiting for the car to stop and Mom to shut off the engine.
Screams of Mom, Mom, Mom were probably being heard all the way down to the Red Lion Inn. Maybe all the way to the library. And with the car parked and the engine shut off, the driver's door flew open and in jumped Molly right into the little lap between Mom and the steering wheel.
As Mom was gushing and kissing Molly's knotty curls, I had a flashback to our last Christmas Eve on Bainbridge Island. Then it was Dad who was kissing those curls while Molly tried to worm more time before bed. Of course, I also remembered my hateful outburst, “There is no such thing as Santa!” A terrible thing to say to a five year old on Christmas Eve. Anger can make people do the dumbest things.
Thankfully, Mom and Dad were able to comfort Molly, and convince her I was just angry about moving and lashing out. Now three years later, Molly still believed in Santa. Or at least I thought she did, and I wouldn't be the one to bring up the subject ever again.
But the present had it's own predicament: How would Molly and Mom who were wedged behind the steering wheel going to get out of the car? It was like watching a game of Twister in a bucket seat. Molly had her right arm around Mom's neck and her left arm tucked behind her waist. While her left leg had somehow managed to lay across the stick shift, her right was still hanging out of the car. Starting to feel stuck, she cried, “Help, I'm all catched up.”
Dad sauntered the last 20 feet to the car, shaking his head. “Here love,” he said, “let go of Mom and I'll lift you up and out.” With his hands steadying Molly's waist, he asked me to lean along the floor of the front seats, to see if I could slide Mom's seat back a bit.
Reaching the latch, I announced, “Mission accomplished,” as the seat slide back and dad gracefully lifted his prize up and out of the car.
Spinning her around, he smiled at Mom, who was now able to ease herself out. “Been to see Martha?” It was a question, but in actual fact, it was a simple acknowledgment of the truth. “How is she?”
“Tired, but fine. Glad to see us. Sharp as a tack.”
“Tired, but fine. Not as sharp as a tack.”
Dad just laughed as he continued to spin Molly up to the door of the house. “Dinner is just about ready. Why don't you all get washed up and I'll finish up the salad.” Dad got a lot of things right, but having dinner made and ready for Mom's first day back won high praise for years.
While we ate the conversation was light. Mom, as usual, asked about school. Both Molly and I said, “It was fine.” Next subject was the state of our bedrooms, “You will clean them this weekend.” “Yes, Mom.” Life was back to normal.
Then she asked Dad about work and his latest piece.
“It's the same, same old. More meetings than I care to attend. Not enough time to work on the collage, but I'll get it done.”
He would. He always did.
At bedtime, as Mom leaned over to kiss me goodnight, I came this close to asking her about Carolyn and what would happen at the end of the school year; a mere 10 weeks, if that. And as the words were on the tip of my tongue, ripe for delivery, I held back. It's her first day home. It's our first day together as a family in over 2 months. Why ruin it? What will happen.
Late Night Texts
Melody: How is ur mom?
Can we come over 2morrow?
Martha on Saturday?
C U 2morrow