Javi's Cafe, 20.
My phone rang a few minutes after we finished opening gifts.
“Excuse me; it’s my parents.”
I stood up and walked outside, answering the phone as the bell above the door jingled.
“Hi mom, hi dad.”
“Hi, Walter. Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas to you, too. How’s Georgia?”
“Sure beats New England this time of year,” my dad said.
“The weather’s not so bad right now,” I replied. “I’m actually outside.”
“Is there snow?” My mom asked.
“A bit. Looks like there’s going to be more later today, though.”
“Did you get our gift?”
“Not yet,” I said. “But I haven’t checked my mail in a few days. It’s been kind of busy.”
“Projects over break?” my dad wanted to know.
“No, a mix of preparing for our concert and then a friend – an elderly gentleman – got pneumonia and needed someone to stay with him for a few nights.”
“Well, I guess it is break.”
“Do you know yet if you’ll make the concert?”
“I think we will.”
“It will be good to see you,” I said.
“You know we’ll be there at your junior recital in the spring, right?”
“Mmm-hmm. This is different, though. That’s academic. This is… well, it’s life. You get to see the people I know, and -” I faltered, trying to find a way to win them over. “And the application of what I’m studying in real life.”
“We’ll try to be there,” my mom said.
We talked for about twenty more minutes, mostly about school and my uncle’s family. I went back inside and joined the snowflake-cutting party.
“How are your parents?” Emily asked.
“They’re enjoying Georgia.” I shrugged. “But that’s all I know.” I wish I really knew how they were. That’s what they’re doing, not how they are. “My mom said they’re going to try to come to the soiree, though.”
“That’s good,” Jerome said.
I nodded. “And since my mom said it, it’s more likely to happen.”
Ema pressed paper and scissors into my hand. “Do you know how to make snowflakes?”
“Not really,” I said.
“Can you try?”
“Okay, but you can’t laugh at it.”
“I won’t.” Ema shook her head.
I folded and snipped, biting my lip as I tried to imagine what it might look like unfolded.
“How’s this?” I asked, holding it up when I was done.
Ema tilted her head. “Well…” she squinted. “It’s better than mine.” She held up one she had made.
“I think we’ll let your mom do the rest,” I said.
“But I need you to hang them,” Emily said. “Or we’ll have to pull out the ladder.”
“Hanging I can do. I may not have ability with scissors and paper, but height I do have.”
For the rest of the day, we hung snowflakes, sipped hot drinks, and sang carols. When the snow finally dumped, Ema and I bundled up and made snow angels in the side walk and attempted to build a snow man. \
“He looks like a snow monster,” Ema said when we finished. “Not like the pictures.”
“I guess I’m not any better with snow than I am with paper,” I said when Emily brought out a carrot for its nose.
“Well, I should go,” Jerome said as the sky grew dark. “Thank you all for your gifts, and even more for a lovely day. Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Jerome. Take care of yourself,” Emily said. She shook her head after he left. “I’m still worried about him, Walter. I can tell he’s still weak.”
“He may not look after himself as well as we’d like, but he does think about it, don’t worry. He just doesn’t like to rest.”
Emily shook her head again. “He really needs it right now, or he’ll end up sick again.”
Emily’s prediction was right. The next day Jerome was re-admitted to the hospital. I went and sat with him for part of the day, then returned to the café to hash out some final soiree plans with Emily. We decided where chairs and tables would go, what food would be available, and how we would introduce pieces.
“Walter,” Emily said as we finished. “I wanted to talk to you about your parents. I know… I know that you may think it hypocritical because of my situation, but I think you may be misreading your parents.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I haven’t been ignoring what you’ve been saying. I really have been thinking about my relationship with my parents. But yesterday when you told us about your phone call, I realized something about my mom and dad. None of what they did or said was because they didn’t love me. It was because they really did love me and were trying to do what they thought was best for me. They were trying to protect me from being in this world as a single mom. It’s not an easy life. I wish every single day Javi was here with me, or that things with my parents had ended differently.” She brushed a tear from her cheek, and looked down, then back up at me. “But I’m starting to hope that it wasn’t the end with them. Anyway, I said I was going to say something about your parents. I don’t think they’re aloof because they don’t love you, Walter. Look at everything they’ve provided for you by helping you get to Julliard. Most people can’t get there, whether because of lack of talent or money. I think that like my parents, they just don’t know how to show they love you.”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. Emily spoke again before I was able to formulate any answers in my mind.
“I’m going to call them, Walter. Not just yet, but I’m going to. You and Jerome can pray for me because I don’t know how I’m going to say anything. I’m angry still. And I know I can’t be. I just… I don’t know how to ask them back into my life without saying they were right about Ema.”
“Maybe the best way for them to see they were wrong is to see her,” I said.
Emily nodded. “I guess I only have a few days to figure it out if I want them to be at the soiree.”
“Emily,” I said, “don’t rush healing. Don’t prevent it, either, but make sure you’re ready before you call.”
“Or maybe we should just show up at their house. Maybe that would be best.”
“All of that is your decision. I don’t have any advice. But I can watch Ema and the café for you if you want to go to the hospital and talk with Jerome.”
“Thank you, Walter. I think I will. And… thank you for not giving up on me. I needed it.”
“I think I just made things worse. God was the one at work.”
“But He used you, He really did. Thank you.”