Teresa? Hon? Wake up, you’re going to be late.” My Mom’s voice rose from the bottom of the stairs, creeping under my door and poking me into reluctant wakefulness.
I needed to be at work at our local grocery store by 7:00 am, and I had my whole routine planned out, get up at 6:30, out the door by 6:45. What I didn’t plan for though, was my Mom. Without even opening my eyes I knew I had at least a half an hour before my alarm was set to go off.
“Teresa! It’s 6:00 it’s time to get up!” Mom called a little more sharply than before.
I ignored her and burrowed deeper into my mound of blankets; I was just not ready yet to face once again that I was really back in Three Rivers, never mind that I’d been back for nearly three months now. Closing my eyes, I tried to bring back the dream I had been having just before Mom woke me, that I was still in San Diego.
Just as I was starting to drift off, I heard her again, “Teresa Lynn get up! You’ve got to get ready for work!”
Muttering to myself, “I know what time to get up, that’s what I have an alarm clock for!” I poked my head out of my blankets to peek at the clock, 6:13 am. “Why can’t she leave me alone for fifteen more minutes?” Time that I would have spent happily in dreams of California, and the friends I left there. Before even another minute had passed, Mom was knocking on my bedroom door.
“Teresa, you’ve really got to get up. There’s no reason for lying in bed like this, you have responsibilities.” She paused, waiting, I imagined, for some kind of response before saying, “If you didn’t stay up so late the night before you wouldn’t have so much trouble getting up in the morning.”
I didn’t say a word, sitting up as slowly as I could, trying to hold onto every last shred of warmth I could pry from my comforter and blankets. Finally I croaked, “I’m up Mom!”
“I just finished mopping the floors, so be careful you don’t slip. Oh, and if you could wait to put your shoes on by the door? Thanks.” After another meaningful pause she added, “Ok, since I know you’re up I can get ready for work now too.” Listening to her going down our creaking stairway, I looked at my clock, 6:20, and she’s already mopped the floors! While dressing, I looked around my childhood bedroom, and all it’s mementos, the beautiful roll top desk I’d gotten for my 16 th birthday, just as I’d asked for, exactly like Dad’s. The wall of bookshelves and cork bulletin board Dad built for my enormous book collection. A room I thought I’d only ever be in again as a guest. I was 24 years old and I felt like I was already a failure in life. At 21 I had moved out from Three Rivers, eager to never look back, excited about my new life in San Diego. I was convinced that Three Rivers was not my destiny, that there was a real life out there for me in California. Things went well at first, my friend Matt and I got ourselves settled, adjusting to the quicker pace of city life rather quickly, but then I got myself into a financial bind, unable to make my car payments or my share of the rent. Things continued to deteriorate until finally I had to swallow my pride and ask Mom and Dad for help. They agreed, on the condition that I moved back “home”. So here I was, three years later, “home” and all alone, having left my friends behind.
I was happy in the balmy weather of Southern California, not minding the chillier, rainy days of late fall and winter. I had loved how everything turned green and bloomed in the winter there, so much better than the perpetual barren dreary gray landscape of winter in Michigan. No, I hadn’t missed winter in Michigan, or the snow that came with it at all. When I returned, I wasn’t even home a full day before my family was teasing me about coming back.
“We know you came back for the snow!”
“You’re in luck, this winter is supposed to be a doozy!”
“Now that you’re back, you can have a real Christmas this year, with snow!”
These were the recurring themes, the rest of the summer. Now it was near to the end of November, Thanksgiving was just around the corner and Christmas not far behind. I had settled back into my old life in Three Rivers, as if I had never left. Sometimes this upset me even more than the fact that I had to return at all. As the days grew colder I got more and more depressed, spending more and more time in my room, or just driving around, dwelling on what I missed about San Diego and looking at my return to Michigan as the ultimate failure.
Mom tried to encourage me to get involved in life in town again, but I resisted anything that might mean I was really back for good. I held onto the fantasy that I could get back on my feet and move back to California again. But I was scared, certain I’d fail once more. So I went through the monotony of day to day life, living in a sort of dream state where I didn’t really have to fully accept the fact that I wasn’t where I thought I belonged. Constantly dwelling on what I had lost and replaying my downfall over and over again, I was barely holding it together, and while not quite yet suicidal it was a thought that wasn’t all that far from my mind. Every day I felt more and more alone.
My Aunt Maryann and my Grandma Mary both suggested I go to church with them, assuring me that it would help me with my depression. I declined; there just wasn’t room in my life for anything but my misery. No one understood why I was so unhappy; didn’t they see that I’d given up everything to have to move back here?
Now with the holidays approaching it was sure to start again, ribbing from my family and co-workers about the cold and snow compared to warm Southern California. Work…I looked at the clock, “Great!” I yelped, it was 6:40, five minutes to finish getting ready. I bolted out of my room and down the stairs, almost colliding with my Mom who was coming out of her room.
“Don’t forget to put in for Thanksgiving off at work,” Mom smiled at me, “Grandma and Grandpa are expecting us for dinner.”
I snapped at her, “Mom! We’ve been through this before; I work at a grocery store! We’re open Thanksgiving Day, and since I’m low on seniority I’ll have to work!”
Mom flinched as if I’d slapped her, “Oh, well, it’s just that everyone is looking forward to having you there for your first holiday since you got home.”
I started to brush past her, but hesitated when I noticed that she looked really upset. I sighed, so much for avoiding the ‘family fun’.
“I’ll see what I can do Mom, I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll try to get the early shift so that I can meet up with you guys in Allegan after work.”
“Teresa that would be wonderful, you know we’ve all missed you these last few years. Christmas and the other holidays just haven’t been the same without you there.”
Fighting the urge to roll my eyes I said, “Yeah Mom, I’ve got to go.” After putting on my shoes I glanced at the clock as I headed to the back door, 6:46, I could just make it!
“Teresa wait!” Mom called running into the kitchen, “Your Dad left his snow brush for you. Since the news said it might snow today! Isn’t that great? Your first snow since you got home!” She thrust the brush and a pair of gloves at me. “And take my gloves, you’ll need them. Now go, you’re going to be late!”
I didn’t want these things. I didn’t want anything to do with the coming snow, yet another reminder I was no longer where I belonged, but I didn’t have time to think about it. I mumbled something resembling a thank you, and walked out the door. As I rounded the house I thought, “What is wrong with me? What am I going to do? I fail at every thing I do, I’m all alone and I hate it here!” The frustration and depression was mounting and I felt like I was dying inside.
More than anything I just wanted to be gone from here, “Look at this place!” I said to myself as I trudged down the drive, “The most exciting thing to happen around here is the first snow? Give me a break!”
About halfway to my car I spotted a small ice puddle in one of the tire ruts. I didn’t have the time, but something made me stop. I stood there staring at the little puddle with it’s glazing of ice. I could remember my brother Lenny and I racing from puddle to puddle on our way to school in the mornings, each vying for the privilege of being the first to jump or slide on the ice. We loved jump onto the ice puddles with both feet breaking the ice into tiny fragments and using the larger pieces like prisms to catch the winter sun.
I looked around; there was no one in sight. The window of time before I was late was quickly closing, but still I hesitated.
“Jump Teresa!” I could almost hear my brother urging me on. I jumped, feet together right into the center.
Splash! Frigid soapy water splashed all up the front of me, soaking my shoes and pant legs, leaving splotches all over.
Forgetting that she usually dumped it in the driveway, I’d jumped into the puddle of Mom’s mop water. The soapy film on the surface was what had fooled me into thinking it was ice. Shock overrode all of my anger and frustration and the past few months started replaying themselves in my mind, only this time instead of seeing my failures I focused on my parents and all the things they had done for me. Quietly being there whenever I needed them, even when I didn’t care or appreciate it, just showing me their love in all the little things they did. I looked down at the objects in my hand, little things like giving me their snowbrushes and gloves.
There was something else I’d been missing too, that I had not been alone. God hadn’t left me alone for even one second. He was with me right now, and I could feel his love for me just as sure as I could finally see that there was a reason he brought me back to Three Rivers, and that I was exactly where I belonged.
“God,” I whispered, shamed by my selfishness. “Thank you for bringing me home.” A feeling of peace I’d only ever read about settled itself about me like a warm blanket.
I knew I had to go inside and change, but something cold and icy landing on my nose held me there a moment longer, then another one on my cheek, and another... I looked up into a sky beginning to fill with fat white snowflakes. Mesmerized, I watched the snow fall silently from the sky. Impulsively I caught a snowflake on my tongue and laughed, feeling as clear and pure as the crisp, lovely November morning. Message received.
Mom was right; I was going to be late.