The food was served to the table by Jocelyn and Nadine. Nadine had wiped away all of the tears when they had gotten the chance while in the kitchen alone. They exchanged a long hug, and Nadine encouraged Jocelyn to stop crying with words of love.
“I love you so f**king much. You know that, right?” Nadine spoke trying to make Jocelyn laugh. It worked, but backfired because after a short laugh, more and more tears poured from her lined eyes and fell to the floor.
“Joss, I love you. And you know that I will always be there for you,” Jocelyn nodded her head into Nadine’s shoulder on agreement and Nadine finished with, “I’ll stand with you, and we can walk ‘till the ends of the earth,” Jocelyn sniffled, and Nadine felt success.
The crying was over. At least for now. And dinner had to be served.
Nadine held the turkey, and Jocelyn the stuffing. They took short trips from the kitchen to the dining room and back until all of the dishes were on the table.
Paul Summers asked, “Travis, do you want to do the carving?”
Travis Hart smiled and accepted.
“You know, when we were still married, Paul would always let me carve the turkey,” Sharon stated. Jocelyn knew that she was trying to make Cecile uncomfortable. And Cecile fought back.
She smiled and combed her fingers through her stick straight ginger hair. And a feisty side of Cecile Rogers was revealed, “How long were the two of you married for again?”
Sharon frowned, “Seventeen years,” she said coldly.
Paul intervened, “Fifteen,” he stopped, “We were married for fifteen years.
Sharon raised her eyebrow just as her daughter Jocelyn did in confusion.
Jocelyn too raised her brow, “Huh? I always thought that you guys were marred for seventeen years? At least that’s what you told me,” Jocelyn was angry. Why did her parents have to break big news like this right now? In front of both Cecile and Nadine’s family.
“Well Jocelyn, we got married when your mother was three months pregnant with you...” and I think that it was right then when Paul Summers realized what he had done. It was too late now. He had to finish, “We were... in a long engagement.”
Conversation changed, and Jocelyn was even more angry and confused than she had been prior. She was angry at her father for making the entire dinner awkward. She was upset that Cecile had invited her mother. Jocelyn was pissed at her own mother for even bothering to show up. And she was mad at Nadine for not being able to do anything about it.
Everything was finally going smoothly. Cecile pulled out the pictures again, and was showing them to the girls. Mostly just school pictures and photos from family vacations. You could tell that she was just trying to connect and relate with Jocelyn. Obviously Cecile had no idea how to interact with children, much less teenagers, but Jocelyn went along with the entire thing.
“And this was from a time when I got poison oak on a hiking trip. It was awful! Have you ever gotten...” but Cecile was cut off by Sharon.
“I got poison oak one time,” interrupted Sharon. She was gnawing on one of the legs of the turkey as if she were a rodent eating from a trash can. No. Sharon Reynolds wasn’t the rodent. That was too close to having a soul. No - Sharon Reynolds was the trash that a rodent devours. Sharon Reynolds was white trash.
Cecile cringed. It was so gross. Sharon was chewing with her mouth wide open, and her yellowed teeth were gnawing at each new bite of the meat.
Because Jocelyn had been mad at her and they hadn’t been talking in weeks, it was just then when Jocelyn noticed something.
Sharon’s teeth were yellow. Her blouse was dirty. Her shoes were covered in dirt. How could a woman who was always so uptight and almost as perfect as Cecile become like this.
Jocelyn pulled Sharon into the kitchen and asked her the question which would end their relationship.
“Mom, why are you being like this?”
Sharon looked at the tiled floor and merely ignored her.
A maternal side of Jocelyn reigned over her own mother, “Mom,” she was stern and persistent.
Sharon looked into the eyes of her daughter. Jocelyn looked so much like her mother. The eyes, the lips, the face, the eyebrows, but her personality was reverted. All different. Jocelyn thought back to a time when all was good.
A sunny day in late June of four years ago.
Sharon had brought Jocelyn out to a park to celebrate her graduation of elementary school. It was a place where they had been many times. The trails familiar, the trees had words carved into them. “Mom + Joss 4EVER”, it’s too bad that forever... wasn’t.
Nadine had come with them. They laughed over funny memories and made fun of teachers. There was chocolate milk. A treat. It had kind of become a tradition with them. Whenever Sharon had taken them anywhere, they would always have chocolate milk and race to see who could drink it the fastest.
Thinking back on the memory made Jocelyn smile. For a moment. Reality was blurred, and she missed the days when kids of her age seemed like scary giants, and her mother was her idol. But then the sting of reality set in, and Jocelyn had to face the present.
Jocelyn asked again, “What is happening to you?”
Sharon stole back the maternal role and answered, “I have been living in the car,” the way that Sharon said it was strange. She was normally shy and would stutter when nervous. But it seemed as if she knew that this moment was going to happen and was prepared for explaining.
The entire conversation was much too scripted. Too uniform and formal. And for what? It wasn’t like Sharon Reynolds was trying to keep up a good reputation or anything. She was living in a car! And Thanksgiving dinner is not the proper time to break important news like this to a teenager.
Girls of their age need stability in their lives. And Sharon was not a good source. But even a surprise like the fact the fact that she was currently living in a car couldn’t top what she would be unveiling in a matter of minutes.
Whether Jocelyn knew it or not, the reason why her parents had split was because her mother was an alcoholic. That is why Paul left her.
So Paul left her? You ask... well she had been an addict for two years and had kept it from Jocelyn. She wasn’t getting any better. Sharon Reynolds had chosen a bottle of beer over her family. And this would never change.
Dessert was served. Cecile had brought the apple pie - it had always been Paul’s favorite, and I guess someone had shared the news with her. Sharon excused herself to go to the bathroom, and Cecile started to make small talk with Nadine and Jocelyn.
“Are your teachers nice?”
“Yeah, they are all pretty good.”
I have to say, even though Cecile was so perfect, I have to give it to her, she is sure pretty damn persistent. After each question was answered and had another one. And another one. And another one.
A much-too-happy-for-the-situation Sharon Reynolds danced her way back into the dining room. Jocelyn had never seen her mother like this before. But Paul had.
Paul looked at her in pure horror, “Holy shit,” a thought which he had meant to keep to himself was now shared with everyone, and he was embarrassed. A woman who had stood by him and was his partner in life for seventeen, or I guess it was fifteen years, had now crashed into his beautiful future family and wife.
But to make matters worse, Jocelyn had no idea what the hell was going on.
“Mom?” Jocelyn questioned with a sense of respect.
“Sharon?” asked Nadine too.
Sharon smiled, in her mixed up and confused head, victory was only another bottle away, “Yes girls...” but she stopped to burp. Yes - the woman to whom Paul Summers had been married to; and the mother of the beautiful and confused Jocelyn Summers was both homeless and a drunk.
And as Sharon smiled, she fell to the ground and into a sleep which lasted until three o’clock in the afternoon the day after. No one need remove her from her spot on the ground, she just lay there. Quiet and beautiful, and everything that Jocelyn had thought her mother to be prior to that depressing and eyebrow-raising Thanksgiving dinner.
Just a girl...