TITLE: Maria's story, chapter 6 section, posted 18 March 2015
By Jane Hoppe
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As she tidied her little place and reviewed some photography class notes, she heard her buzzer.
“Dad!” Maria was delighted to see her fiftyish father tromping up her back steps. After tossing his air force blue parka toward Maria’s coat tree, he opened wide arms to hug his only daughter.
“Sweetie, I’ve missed you. We haven’t seen you since Christmas. I dropped off Amy’s gloves at Miller’s, then stopped in to the jeweler to order your mother’s Valentine’s present—shhh—and just had to come see you.”
“I’m glad to see you, too, Dad. What’s new?” Maria motioned for him to sit in the one-and-a-half chair and she sat cross-legged on the window seat.
“Well, the main thing is, Jax and I want to invite you—and Jack—to join us in South Haven in April. Your mother’s school district and mine have the same week off for spring break, so we thought even though you kids are in your twenties now, maybe we could do this as a family. What do you think?” He took a deep breath, leaned toward Maria with his elbows on his knees, and continued before Maria could answer. “Your mom made a few calls, and we can stay with old friends along the south bluff, and you and Jack can stay with Emma and Fred on the north bluff.”
Maria felt uncomfortable in a mixed-emotion kind of way and wasn’t sure what to say. “Um. That’s a really nice invitation, Dad. I don’t know how much vacation time I want to use up—you know, since I’m saving up to go to Europe—but I could probably at least come for the weekends. And you know how much I love South Haven in the summer, but what would we do there in April?” Maria nervously fingered the fringe on a throw pillow.
“It might be too chilly for sailing, but you always love to walk or jog the beaches. You and Jack bike and play tennis. Short of a snowstorm, you could do those things in early spring.”
“That’s true. And I love visiting Emma and Fred.” She caught herself before saying she sometimes felt closer to Emma than to her mother. “The view from their deck over the lake is so pretty. And oh, I could practice taking panoramic shots for my photography class.” Maria felt herself warming to this spring break idea but still felt a stomach knot.
“Dad … just curious. Why did you invite me? Usually Mom arranges this stuff.”
Peter sat up a little straighter. Maria could see her dad’s jaw tensing like a caterpillar rippling across a sidewalk. His voice changed from excited little kid to tender father. “Because, sweetie, she noticed that when she invites you to something, you usually say no, so she asked if I would do it. I think it means a lot to her for the four of us to be together in South Haven.”
“Oh.” Now Maria’s stomach really knotted. My reluctance to move toward Mom hurts her. Maria’s eyes moistened. Well, when you’re not nice to your own daughter that’s what you deserve. Her fists twisted the pillow. “I don’t know what to say, Dad. Does she know you’re here?” Where did that one come from?
“She doesn’t know I came here personally, but she did ask me to ask you. Why do you ask?”
Oh, boy. “Um, I don’t know exactly. Remember when you installed the peep hole in my door?” Peter nodded. “Mom was really angry afterward. She called me to screech about my not having any skills if I couldn’t even install a peep hole myself, and if I’d needed help, why didn’t I ask Jack.”
“I didn’t know that, Maria. I’m sorry you had to hear that.” Maria’s dad moved over to the window seat next to Maria and put his arm around her shoulder. She buried her head in flannel folds and sobbed. “Honey, please find it in your heart to forgive your mother. I think the two of you might need to talk that through, too. What do you think?”
Maria shook her head firmly. “Dad, don’t you see? She’ll just find something else to criticize.”
“Maria, I can’t say much without betraying her confidence, but I hope you’ll look for more positive comments and soft spots in the future. And by the way, you do know you have way too many skills for me to list here.” Standing up, he held his arms out for another hug and after kissing the top of his sniffling daughter’s head, asked, “Now, do you want any pictures hung, any hinges oiled, any shades installed on the bay windows? I’ve got my tool box in the car. I know you could masterfully do these things yourself, but you know us middle-aged folks, too much time on our hands on the weekends.”
Maria laughed and play-punched her dad in the stomach. “I love you, Daddy.” Now it was Peter’s turn to tear up. “Maybe another Saturday when you’re bored, you could frame and hang one of the photographs I take for my class. In the meantime, I’ve got to get ready to do my homework and then go over to Carly’s for supper and laundry.”
“You know you could do your laundry at home—our place—too, don’t you? You’re always welcome.”
“I know, Dad. Maybe after Mom and I have that talk.”
He winked at her as he grabbed his parka. “That’s my girl.”
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