The Christmas Lunch
A Story of Providence
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Apart from their annual ‘date’, the sisters had been separated since childhood. Oh, they grew up together, but their sister-to-sister moments became few and far between. Time and circumstance had separated them, though they never stopped loving each other. They were joined at the hip, as some would say, when they were younger, and both had expected a lifetime of sharing; tea parties and Barbies would give way to big girl parties and sleepovers and movies. They thought they’d be married on the same day, with both brides given away by a proud mother and father. It was never meant to be, but life has a way of reaching into the past, where sometimes dreams finally do come true…after a fashion.
“You look great,” Marie said as she sipped her iced tea; it was unsweetened…she hated sweet tea even though she grew up in southern Virginia. Joann couldn’t get enough of sweet, preferring her Classic Coke (no ice please!).
“Where did the years go, Marie?” Joann shook her head and looked down and away.
“Hey…I’m just as much at fault as you! I should have kept in touch.” Marie reached over and tapped her sister’s wrist. Joann kept her head down, prompting Marie to lift her sister’s head with her hand, revealing a tear-stained face.
“What do you mean? It’s not like I gave you a choice…I’m the one who left.” Joann stuck her lip out in a sad pout, like she had been caught swiping cookies. Her “offense” was much more serious, but still out of her control.
“And it’s not like you chose to go away….Oann...” Marie sighed, wanting so hard to span the gulf of years between them. It had been too long, even if it had only been seven years and something neither could help.
“Oann? You remember that? We couldn’t….it didn’t matter….say each other’s names.
“Oann…Yep…I remember. Nonny Mac would keep saying, 'Helen, you should just re-name them to make it easy.' And Mommy would just nod and smile. I wish she had said I was pretty, Jo…it hurt that she never said it…at least in front of anyone else.” Marie put her head down; it was her turn to cry, and not over sentiment.
“Why did she do that, Joann?” She bit her lip as her voice broke.
Joann stared away blankly before putting her hand against her Marie’s face.
“I think she tried to make up for what ….” Her voice trailed off and Marie completed the thought.
“Because of what Daddy did?” She stifled a sob, relieved that it was past two in the afternoon; the lunch crowd had cleared out and dinner was hours away, and the restaurant was nearly empty except for them and an older couple who sat in the booth by the front window.
“Yes…I think she wanted to….show you…I don't think she knew what she was doing, sis.” Joann’s voice broke and Marie grit her teeth.
“I don’t want to be angry….I hate being like this.” Marie looked over at the couple…they seemed so happy.
“What was wrong with us…with all of us, sis…what did we do wrong? Why couldn’t Mommy and Daddy be like them…holding hands…smiling…hugging?”
“I don’t know….they were broken long before they met….long before we came along. I don’t think they knew how.” Joann frowned, but her tone was soft and forgiving.
“I don’t want to hate Mommy….I don’t even want to hate Daddy….it’s so hard not to, Joann….how do you do it?” Marie's eyes began to flood with tears; from guilt and doubt…anger and sadness mixed in a horrible tincture of fear and shame. Joann looked calm; perhaps as calm as Marie could recall.
“I have a lot of help.” Joann smiled at her sister and used her head to gesture over her shoulder. Directly behind her stood a very tall being; a messenger some might call her...some might say powerful, but that would be a gross understatement. Almost the epitome of grace and strength, the being smiled at Joann and lifted her gaze as her eyes seemed to bless Marie.
“And she’s just one of many, and that’s not even including everybody we know…you know? And their…boss, of course!” Joann raised her eyes upward.
Several of the messengers stood almost as if guarding the restaurant, with two of them paying very close attention to the couple by the window. Marie looked at them before sayhing,
“What about me?” She bit her lip, almost jealous in her disappointment.
“Who will take care of me? How do I get through this? Joann? I feel so incomplete…without you…without me in a way. It hurts so much, and I miss you….so bad….”
The waitress walked by the table and seemed to be oblivious to the emotion of the moment; Marie’s tears were falling onto the plate and the paper placemat, but the girl appeared to take no note as she placed the check in front of Joann.
“Theresa and Vinnie and Petey…your family….It’s going to be alright.” She smiled and grabbed the check, looking at it before sliding it across the table.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to get it this time, I’m a little short.” Joann began to laugh softly at the joke; decades old but still guaranteed to get her to laugh, she was one inch short of five feet.
She had lost all of the weight she gained growing up and her body and face seemed to be almost that of a pre-teen. Not a surprise; she was always stuck at twelve or so, but now for a good reason…it really was who she always was, rather than the age when she nearly succeeded in a horrible choice. Years of abuse, both by others and by the neglect and abuse she gave herself, had left her sick, weak; almost stranded in the past. But now, free of the constraints of temporal life, Joann had resumed the transformation begun at birth into the woman she was meant to be.
“Besides, I don’t have any money.” She giggled as she stood to go. Their time was up for the moment, guaranteed to resume the same time next year for their annual Christmas lunch. Joann smiled and sighed in relief; Marie wasn’t scheduled to join her for quite some time, so it would be the same arrangement the next time they met. Joann and her angels would sit across from her....from...him.
Joey Crocetti sat at the table in the back of the restaurant and sighed as his ‘big’ sister bade her farewell with a smile and a wave and,
“Give my best to Vinnie and Petey…Tell them I miss my big brothers, okay? And my love to Teresa and Joey Junior, okay? And tell Teresa that her Mom’s doing just fine…I love you, oey…I love you.” With that, she slowly faded away.
“And I love you, too, Oan.” Joey said, almost in the same voice from years ago as he put his head down on the table, crying softly. He didn’t notice the waitress standing off to the side praying silently and he didn’t notice the strong noble being spread her wings over him either as she placed her hand under his chin to catch his tears.
Dio vi benedica tutti
for all of you this holiday season.
Con grande amore e di affetto
Dio vi benedica tutti
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.