“Here,” Nada told my sister, Ruth May, on Christmas Day. “Did you see what Adah gave Esperanca for Christmas?” He held out the book I wrote for his daughter and had published at Lulu.com. It looked like a real book, a trade paperback with a glossy bright cover and numbered pages. Ruth May turned away, pretending busy-ness, and didn’t even look. Her boyfriend didn’t look either. Nada put the book on the coffee table and we went on with our Christmas, but all I could think about was Nada’s family, how when Esperanca opened the present at his house on Christmas Eve, they erupted with joy. They passed the book around reverently, opening it with careful, loving fingers. They traced the picture of Esperanca on the cover. “Wow,” they said. “You wrote this? For Esperanca? That’s beautiful.” His brother told me, afterwards, “I don’t generally read books, but I’m going to read this one.” His aunt and mother asked where they could buy their own copies. They called his sister and his other brother to tell them.
I was surprised, totally surprised, at their reaction. I didn’t expect too much response, except perhaps from Esperanca, who set to reading immediately. And now I’m embarrassed, afraid it won’t be good enough. I knew my family wouldn’t be interested. They never have been. Ruth May has never read the book I wrote with my mother about having breast cancer together. The others show little interest in my writing, my life, except for Leah who has a kind and generous spirit, although she is troubled. Over the years, she is the one I find myself most empathetic towards.
I didn’t expect Nada’s family to be so welcoming of Esperanca’s book, to thank me so eagerly for such a great present. I love them. I cannot get over people who accept me so readily and warmly. I expect them, every day, to lose interest. Their continued love and support amazes me.
How odd the past month or so has been. I look through my window at the patio upon which birds fight, at the winter-bare tree branches and the massed clouds behind the hills on the horizon, at the narrow slant of yellow sun that lies across the dead grasses on the walkway. It is all cold and still; even the birds stop in mid-peck and look up, as though awaiting something.
I have been working a little on the book I wrote with my mother, imagining I can publish it on Lulu for those who might be interested it, family friends, though not family members. I begin it with Obadiah, because Obadiah is the thread that links the story through the years.
And now I remember Mum didn’t want us to withdraw from one another, didn’t want us to turn our backs because we see things differently. Ruth May’s disinterest in anything I do is simply who she is, absorbed in little Liam’s first months, lacking curiosity. She has always been thus. She is still my sister. Obadiah holds us together, not a book for someone she’s never met.