I heaved my overstuffed duffle bag to the porch and fumbled for the key to my own back door. Since I’d left for college six weeks ago, it had migrated to the bottom of my backpack. But I didn’t want to ring the doorbell; this was a surprise visit home. Another girl in my dorm lived in a town about thirty miles down the highway, and she’d offered me a ride.
My plan was to open the door verrrrrrrry quietly and to drop my things in the mudroom. It was just a little after two in the afternoon—Mom would probably be busy cleaning something, and Dad would probably be busy making something dirty. Certainly they wouldn’t be expecting me—Greenville College was over four hours away, and I hadn’t planned to come home until the long Thanksgiving break.
I tip-toed through the kitchen, where I noted that the lunch dishes were still on the counter. Strange…Mom’s always been fairly obsessive about cleaning up. More times than I can count, she’d hover over my shoulder while two bites of BLT remained on my plate. “You finished with that, dear?” Well, no, Mom, but let me just shove it in my mouth so you can whisk it away…The coffeepot still held half an inch of coffee, and the butter dish was uncovered on the table. My heart lurched. Something was definitely wrong here.
My feeling of not-rightness increased when I hopped into the living room, arms spread theatrically, with a big “ta-daaaah”. I’d expected the usual early-afternoon scenario: Mom dusting or vacuuming—homey chores that interested me not in the slightest—and Dad on the laptop, researching his latest interest. One month it was raising Pacman frogs, the next, antique picture frames.
What I saw, though, was a living room in disarray. Well, relatively speaking; my mother’s handiwork basket was beside the couch, a bit of knitting flung onto a cushion, her sweater draped on the coffee table. Dad’s laptop was on, the screen saver bouncing around, and his shoes were in the middle of the floor, oddly askew. The word rapture briefly sprang to mind. Nah…
I considered calling 911, but called out their names first. “Mom? Dad? Is anybody here?”
Fifteen seconds of silence. I was reaching for my cell when I heard a scurrying from down the hall. Mom came trotting out to meet me, her cheeks flushed with surprise. “Addy! What on earth—how did you get here?”
“Courtney brought me, Mom…you met her at orientation, remember? With the funny haircut? She lives pretty close, and…what’s going on?”
“Oh, I was just…cleaning our closet. Your dad…his ties were all…oh, it’s good to see you, sweetie! Did you have lunch?”
I gave Mom a hug, noting her tousled hair. She must have been working hard. “Yeah, we ate on the road. I’ll just get my bag and toss it in my room. I brought tons of laundry.”
“Oh Addy, about your bedroom…” My mother looked over her shoulder toward my bedroom door. “We’ve made a few changes…if we’d known you were coming, we’d have…”
Without going back for my duffle, I strode to my old room. All of my things were still there: bed, dresser, desk—but shoved against the back wall and covered with piles of junk. “Mom, what on earth--”
“It’s your dad’s new hobby, dear. He’s making dollhouses now. It’s so much nicer here than in the garage…” She stopped as Dad walked in, tucking his t-shirt into his jeans. She glanced at him with a look that made me blush. Good grief.
Dad kissed Mom’s forehead. “Addy, we weren’t expecting you. How’s school?”
I was still trying to take it all in…my room destroyed, my parents acting like total strangers, my dad, who had walked in…from…from the direction of…oh, good grief.
On the worktable in the middle of my decimated bedroom was a tiny model of our very own house. I stooped down and peered in the window of what would be my parents’ bedroom. “Gonna put a tiny chandelier in there for the mother and father dolls to swing from, Dad? A heart-shaped Jacuzzi, maybe?”
“Addy!” My mother sounded shocked, but her lips were curled in a barely stifled smile. “We’d like our grandchildren to play with this dollhouse some day!” But she turned to Dad with wide eyes. “A Jacuzzi, honey! What do you think?”
TMI! I turned away from their goofy grins and stuck my fingers in my ears. Nanananananananana….
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