Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A home for the holidays

In which wee see Ms. Bradstreet dozing in time

The Maria Chronicles, #32

Maria is dozing on the couch opposite the Christmas tree. She can hear the sink running; her daughter Felicia is washing the last dinner dishes. She can hear the football game her son is watching on the TV behind her, his socks sticking out over the ottoman, where he's perched. A bottle of wine from the case her friend Janice has sent her sits empty.

Maria feels more content than she has in memory, certainly since she moved to New York. The sense of depression that set down over her once the divorce decree became final was like a streak of dismal weather she couldn't shake off. That was Thanksgiving, which she spent alone. Felicia was always planning on coming for Christmas; with Evan you never know. Apparently things with his girlfriend are on the rocks. He came and he came alone. Maria is grateful that he suppressed his own sorrows. Once he saw that she lacked a tree, he and Felicia went to get one, trimming it in a somewhat improvised way. He made a nice dinner. They had talked about going to the movies, and they still might, but Maria is happy to just lie there.

She thinks about her students. There's Willie, telling a funny story over dinner. There's Kenny tinkering with a new piece of software. She imagines Peter texting with Ali. Vanessa no doubt is shopping online. Her school sits silent and empty. It has the last few days; it will for the next week.

Derek Clark. Where is Derek? She's not sure she's ever seen him smile. Maria would like to make him her project in the coming year.

Ten years ago her kids were teens, sleeping late on Christmas morning and scheming to see their friends. Twenty years ago they were up at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought. They were a real family then. Ten years from now, God willing, she'll be a grandmother. Maria will be almost sixty. Retirement on the horizon.

She thinks of Jack Casey, surely with his daughter now. They'll be thinking about their lost wife and mother. Jack is clearly trying to move on. Maybe Maria should too. But right now, there's a joy in stillness.

She senses Felicia nearby. Through half-closed eyes she sees her pick up the empty wine bottle. "Should we open another one?" she asks her brother. "Nah," he replies. "I gotta drive back to the hotel. I guess Mom's too tired to go to the movie."

"No I'm not," Maria says through her eyes remain closed.

"Oh you're not, are you?" asks Evan, clearly amused.

"Let me just sit here for another minute," Maria says. Is this what happiness is, she wonders? "All right then," she says, opening them to see the apartment in pristine condition. "Let's go."