Kathy pulled up to the two-story, white house that belonged to her parents, the same house she, Joyce, and Larry grew up in so many years ago. She loved spending time here because it made her feel so comforted and relaxed. She needed that today, of all days.
As she got out of the car, she glanced at the big weeping willow tree in the side yard. She and Larry had spent endless afternoons climbing and playing in that tree when they were growing up. It was her favorite place to escape to as a child. Even Joyce would sometimes play with them in that tree but usually she spent her time in the house with their mother.
Kathy walked up the sidewalk to the house. It was early spring and the daffodils along the walk were beginning to come up. She was always amazed at how well her mother took care of the yard, especially now that she was nearing seventy.
Kathy quietly slipped into the house, bypassed the kitchen, and went straight into the den. She felt badly about not saying hello to her mother but she needed some time alone to get her thoughts together. Her head was still swarming with her worries and concerns about her daughter, Jess.
Part of her wished she had skipped coming tonight. For years, she and Jess had eaten there every Monday and Friday night. They only lived a mile down the road from one another so it seemed a natural thing to do. She always told Jess it was to keep Grandma and Grandpa company. Deep down, though, Kathy knew she did it to comfort herself.
She liked sitting in the den, in her father's big reclining chair. The room was done in rust and hunter green tones that kept it unusually dark. Today, this darkness seemed to swallow her up and take her away from her problems.
Just as she was about to drift off to sleep, Kathy's mother, Miriam, walked into the den.
"Dear, why didn't you come say hello when you came in?"
"I'm sorry, Mom, I just needed some quiet time to myself," replied Kathy as she started to her feet. "Do you need any help with dinner?"
"No, dinner's fine," Miriam answered hesitantly. "Is everything alright, honey? I've been worried about you lately. You've seemed so preoccupied and distracted in recent weeks and hiding out in the den like you've done tonight is just not like you."
"Mom, I know I haven't been myself lately and I would like to talk about what's going on but not right this instant. Okay?" Kathy said abruptly as she walked out into the hallway.
Miriam followed her daughter to the kitchen. "Okay dear, I won't push you but I did want you to know I'm worried about you."
Avoiding further conversation, Kathy reached into the cupboards and grabbed the dinner plates. "Is dinner almost ready? I'm gonna go ahead and set the table."
"Yes, it'll be done shortly. Is Jess coming tonight? She's usually here by now," asked Miriam.
"No, she has to work late at the center. She said she would stop by some time tomorrow though."
"God, I didn't think dinner was ever going to end," Kathy thought to herself as she snuck back into the den. Her sister Joyce and niece Babs had also decided to come for dinner. All those people were just what Kathy did not need. She hated making small talk at the dinner table and would much rather be by herself. She figured she had about a half hour before her mother would find her again so she decided to enjoy the tranquility as much as possible.
She reached for the family album before she snuggled back into her father's big chair. She always enjoyed looking through the album, especially at her childhood pictures. Life was so carefree then. She wondered how a child who had been so happy could be so sad and lonely now.
As she skimmed the pages, she came across her daughter's senior picture taken two years ago. Jess was a pretty girl but so shy and quiet. Even as a child, she was never very outgoing. That always worried Kathy but she never encouraged anything different. "I guess that's why there is such a problem today," Kathy sighed.
After looking through the rest of the pictures, Kathy closed the album and set it on the table next to the chair. She closed her eyes in hopes of drifting off to sleep again but quickly knew that was not to be as she heard her mother enter the room and shut the door.
She turned to look at her mother. She was a petite woman with the typical grandmother look. Her hair was a silver gray and she had it shampooed and set once a week at the beauty parlor. She dressed conservatively, matching her opinions and views in life. And she had the sweetest looking face that made it so easy for people to talk to her.
"Hi, Mom. I guess you found me again. I'm sorry I didn't help you wash the dishes," Kathy said as she sat up in the chair.
"That's alright. Joyce helped me. I think she sensed you needed some time to yourself. Do you want to talk now or should I just leave you alone?" asked Miriam.
"No Mom, you can stay."
"Well, what is it that's bothering you, honey?" Miriam asked as she took a seat on the couch opposite her daughter.
Kathy straightened up in the chair before she began her explanation. "I've just been really worried about Jess lately. She doesn't hardly have any friends, she doesn't date at all, and she spends all her free time with me or locked up in her room reading some book. She acts like an old maid when she should be out having the time of her life."
Kathy stopped and again looked at her mother. "I just feel like this is all my fault. I've rarely encouraged her to do things on her own; and to be quite frank, I'm afraid I may have ruined her life. I just don't want her to end up like me: forty, fat, and alone."
"Actually dear, you are forty-five," interrupted Miriam, "but you are not alone. You have your family and what about your job and the church?"
"Mom, I know but I'm not talking about me," Kathy said sharply.
"Well, I think maybe you are. Before you start handling Jess' problems, I think you need to deal with your own first."
"Great," Kathy thought to herself. "This is all I need, my own mother psychoanalyzing me." She shifted around in the chair, desperately searching for a way to end the conversation.
Miriam softly looked at her daughter. She had often wondered what the impact would be from all that had happened to Kathy over the years. She wished she would have interfered a long time ago. Maybe some of the pain could have been avoided. Now she knew she could not keep quiet any longer.
"Why don't you come sit on the couch beside me," Miriam said as she patted the space beside her with her hand.
Kathy sighed heavily as she edged her way out of the chair and over to the couch. She nestled herself in the far corner, hoping to discourage the oncoming conversation. Her mother was staring directly into her eyes. It was as if she could see all the hurt that had built up over the last twenty-five years. Kathy suddenly had the urge to cry, but did not.
After what seemed an eternity of silence, Miriam finally took a deep breath and started talking.
"Kathy, I think your problems all started twenty-five years ago with your marriage to Dan. . . ."