I begin folding my clothes up into neat little sections in my luggage, seated on the edge of Mazie’s bed. “I Guess I’m Floating” by M83 starts to play on my phone once I press the shuffle button. I think about my mother. The way she would always yip and yap at Lily and me about our laundry. She’d be so offended by wrinkled clothing that hadn’t been hung up on hangers quickly enough. She’d be even more upset by clothing that wasn’t perfectly folded by the creases before being placed into our drawers. I always wondered why she cared so much about clothing and it always made me feel like I wanted to be the opposite way.
I think that’s why I let my clothing sit in the dryer for three days after they’ve been cleaned and why I wear wrinkly t-shirts out of the house all the time. It’s why I’ve never spent a dime at the dry cleaners and why I don’t care in the slightest about washing my whites with my colors and my towels. I don’t even know what the purpose of wasting money on fabric softener is and I often times forget to add dryer sheets in with my clothes before setting them off to dry.
I picture my mother grimacing at my drawer of clothing. The unevenly stacked piles of shirts and underwear. But then suddenly I picture her hugging me. A tight hug that feels very warm and nurturing. She hugged me like that a lot.
She’d always explain to us about there are five languages of love and that each person who walks on this earth encompasses a deep need for one of those love languages at a very profound and intense level.
She’d explain to us that her love language was touch and that’s why she loved to hug us so tightly.
I picture my father too.
He was the type of guy who liked to keep to himself but with our mom, he’d always reach out. He’d always stroke her arm or her hair. He’d always hold her hand. It’s as if he was consciously and intentionally leaving his comfort zone of self-preservation to soothe her love language need of being touched.
He did it all the time.
I picture both of my parents in front of me. Standing there that night in the kitchen before their accident.
I can see it in their faces that they didn’t know.
They truly had no idea. Not even an inkling.
“I forgive you,” I say to them.
Even though they aren’t really there, I say it to them out loud. That I forgive them.
Somehow, and very suddenly, this feeling of peace washes over my entire body as I see my parents’ faces begin to float away into oblivion.
It’s like the entire time that I was so angry at them, all I was doing was torturing myself.
They couldn’t feel my anger… it was just me. I was feeling all of it, all by myself.
“You didn’t know,” I tell them, with reassurance in my voice. As if I’m letting them off the hook for something that so many years later, they didn’t even know about while they were alive.
I don’t need to wave them off. They float away from my vision completely, leaving me sitting there alone once again.
The hugest part of me thought I’d never be able to forgive my parents but I believe I just have. Genuinely.
Lily’s three kids, Kyle, Frank Jr., and Mazie, all walk into my room at the same time in that very moment.
“Who were you talking to?” Kyle asks.
“I was talking to my parents,” I respond quietly, suddenly feeling extremely introverted.
“Like… on the phone?” he asks.
“Kind of like that,” I respond.
“I thought you had the same parents that my mom has,” Frank Jr. says with a questionable facial expression. “But my mom’s parents are dead.”
“We do have the same parents. And yes, they are dead.”
“How come you get to talk to them still but we can’t?” Mazie asks.
“Well, I wasn’t really talking to them. I mean, it wasn’t in a back-and-forth sort of way.”
“Oh,” Kyle says perking up, “So it was like praying? Like when we talk to God but it’s not really in a back-and-forth sort of way cuz he never responds out loud?”
“Maybe something like that… it wasn’t praying though. Just sort of… releasing I suppose.”
“Releasing what?” he asks.
“Whoa,” he says, looking dumbfounded. They each three stare up at me like I’m a superhero.
“What’s so cool about that?” I ask.
“Mom says forgiveness is one of the hardest things someone can ever do in the world.”
“Yeah,” Kyle chimes in, “She says if you can forgive other people, then you have the strength to do anything.”
“Your mom said that?” I ask.
“Yeah. She said if someone has done something bad enough to you that it puts you in a situation where you have to decide if you can forgive them or not, then that means you’ve probably been through something pretty tough. So, if you can forgive that person for what they did, it’s the hardest thing ever someone can do in the world.”
“Your mom is pretty smart,” I respond.
“Yeah, she is,” Mazie says smiling. “It’s kind of cool how you look just like her.”
“Like me and Kyle,” Frank Jr. says, looking at his twin brother.
“Twins run in the family,” I tell them, nodding. “When you all are older, you might all end up with twin children too.”
“What about you?” Mazie asks, pointing at my stomach.
“What about me?” I respond, crossing my arms in front of my belly.
“Are you gonna have twins too?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t have anyone in my life right now to have twins with.”
“So… you’re single?” Mazie asks.
I snicker at the innocent face of this tiny little girl who seems to be judging me on my solitude.
“Yes, I’m single,” I say to her.
“Are you leaving?” Frank Jr. asks, pointing at all of my clothing in the luggage.
“Yeah. Tomorrow morning.”
“Do you feel happy now?” he asks.
“Happy?” I ask.
“I heard my mom praying for you to get happy!”
I nod and look down at my things. “Well not quite but I’m a step in the right direction,” I tell him.
“Why is it so hard for grownups to be happy?” Kyle asks me. His face looks genuinely concerned.
“I’m not sure,” I tell him, shrugging. “But do me a favor and stay little for as long as you can. It’s the easiest way for you to avoid finding out the answer to that question.”
“Can’t stay little forever,” Mazie says laughing. “This isn’t Peter Pan and Neverland!”
“Well,” I say, taking a deep breath. “Just try... Try your hardest.”
Lily walks by the bedroom and sees her three children sitting in front of me on the floor.
“Why are you kids bothering your Aunt Lori?” she asks, peaking her head in.
“Aunt Lori is leaving tomorrow!” Kyle exclaims.
The three kids shuffle out of the room and Lily sits beside me on the bed.
“Is that true?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I respond. “I think I’m ready to go back now.”
“I hope you’re not planning on completely disappearing from my life again.”
“No. I won’t do that. We shouldn’t have become estranged in the first place and I definitely won’t let that happen again.”
She stretches her arms out and hugs me before helping me continue to fold my clothes.