Jeanie’s mom kissed her forehead when she said goodnight. Jeanie forced a smile and said goodnight, as pleasant as she could. She sighed when her mother left. The last time her mother kissed her on the forehead she was leaving for prom and her mother didn’t know what else to do. Her mother never knew what else to do.
And that’s how Jeanie felt tonight. The house was still. Everyone had gone to bed, or at least retired to their rooms. Jeanie’s mom would be asleep by now. Her father would be reading a book in the den, her old room. By now the book was probably sitting open in his lap while he dreamed the closing chapters. Paul had gone to bed too, but Jeanie knew better than to think he was asleep.
She glanced at the clock and decided she just as well go to bed. It wasn’t particularly late. For Jeanie it was rather early. But there wasn’t exactly a lot to do. She could always lose herself in a late night movie, but more than anything she wanted to find herself.
The basement door creaked and she tried not to notice the musty smell. She flipped the kitchen light off and descended into the dark. The dull fluorescent lights lit up the basement, brighter than it needed to be. It wasn’t a comfortable, finished basement. The concrete floor was covered with a square of remnant carpet that left a gap by the wall with the closet. The cold came up through the carpet and chilled Jeanie. Her old twin bed was shoved in the corner, and a few random personal items she had left behind were strewn about. She had forgotten most of them, more likely than not on purpose. There was a rocking chair in one corner and a dresser against the bed like a nightstand. Through a small rectangular window next to the ceiling she could see the moon outside. The rest of the basement stretched beyond the stairway in the other direction. It wasn’t carpeted and the walls were lined with utility shelves, piled high with boxes of assorted crap that would fill tables at a flea market and attract all sorts of shoppers, but even they would walk away from the sale.
Jeanie’s carload of belongings sat in front of the closet. Suddenly it didn’t look like she owned very much. Quietly, she sat on her childhood bed, listening to the springs creak. It was covered with a strange quilt, one of the extras from the bottom of the linen closet. Jeanie looked at it, and it reminded her of her grandmother. She remembered coming home a few years ago for the funeral. Her mother was teary eyed the whole weekend and wouldn’t sit down to listen to Jeanie for any length of time. That was when Jeanie was considering moving in with Christopher, one of the guys she met at work. For the first time in her life she asked her mom for advice, but the funeral was too much for Mrs. Robinson and she couldn’t handle listening to her own daughter’s problems.
Jeanie smiled, remembering how much it pissed her off. She went to the funeral refusing to talk to her mother, and it wasn’t until halfway through the service when she realized why she was there. At a quiet moment in the service Jeanie’s grief stricken grandfather stood up and shuffled over to the open casket where his dead wife lay. Slowly and tenderly he leaned over and pressed his lips against her cheek. He then picked up a small stuffed animal that was sitting on the coffin and shuffled back to his seat. One of the younger grandchildren had put the stuffed bird there, because the grandmother had given it as a gift. The child was giving back. The reverend watched quietly while the grandfather did this, and then continued as if nothing had happened.
When her grandfather’s lips touched that pale skin, Jeanie realized that her mother not listening didn’t matter. It was then that she felt the tears well up in her eyes, but she held them back because she was the oldest grandchild.
Now Jeanie looked at the stuffed bird, sitting solemnly atop the dresser. It looked right back at her with its pitiful smile.