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family 10.25.21

My heart raced, I felt so awkward and shy. “Uh, um…” I wrung my hands in embarrassment, searching my vocabulary for the words, any words.

“It’s okay—“

“What’s your name?” I blurted.

He chuckled. “Jackson. Jackson Holmes.” His shoulders relaxed and he faced me, putting his hands in his jacket pockets, but he stayed by the door.

“H-hi, Jackson,” I wished the world would swallow me whole. I’d never made small talk with people, but I felt like I owed him for returning the necklace to me. “Thank you for returning this to me,” I settled on that.

“You’re welcome,” He smiled and my world melted. I looked down at my hands, shaking nervously as they held the gold palm tree in my fingers. “Who’s is it?”

I looked up. “W-what?”

Jackson pointed to the necklace, taking a step towards me. “The necklace. Did it belong to somebody?”

I looked back down, closing the necklace in my hands and bringing it to my heart. “My mom.”

Jackson stopped beside my bed. “I’m so sorry for your loss…” He said slowly.

I looked back up and him. “Thank you, but it was years ago.”

He shrugged his shoulders gently. “Either way, I’m sorry.”

We stared at each other in silence, when I had the brilliant idea of asking, “Do you have a mom?”

Oh, my God.

My face flushed as he chuckled, clearly amused. “Well, I defiantly do have a mom, yes,” He winked and I couldn’t help but smile at my own behavior. “She’s actually Italian.”

My eyes widened in fascination. “Wait, like, born and raised?”

He nodded, laughing and running his hand through his hair. “Sure was. She has an accent and everything, though it’s not as strong in the States. When her family comes over to visit, or when we go to Italy to visit, her English accent can be really hard to understand!”

“Wow, so you’ve been to Italy?”

“About twelve times, yes ma’am.”

Only twelve? “And do you speak Italian?”

“I can speak English, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and I’m currently learning French.”

My mouth gaped open. “Why on earth do you know so many languages?” I laughed, mostly from shock but also with genuine curiosity.

“Well, if I tell you, I’ll have to sit down. May I?” He gestured to the end of the bed.

I was a bit embarrassed that he felt like he needed to ask, but I understood why: He didn’t want to overstep. I felt terrible that I made him feel so bad, but I suppose there was nothing I could do abut it now. I nodded, and he sat down.

“So,” He began. “I have nine siblings, all from different countries. My father is Scottish and my mother is Italian, and when they got married they ended up adopting ten children from all over the world! We all learned each other’s languages and traveled to their countries to understand and appreciate cultures, languages, holidays et cetera. I’m the eldest, so I had the privilege of learning all of my younger siblings’ native tongues’ as they came into our lives.”

My brain didn’t even know what to do with this information. I felt like he was probably the coolest person I had ever met. “Ten children?!” I gasped and he laughed, nodding. “All from different countries? What country were you born in?”

“Ah, I’m just boring old United States,” He winked. “But, there are six countries that we are all adopted from: United States, Italy, England, China, Japan and France. My youngest sister is from France, so that’s why I’m not quite fluent in it yet.”

“And you’ve been to all of those countries before?”

He nodded. “At least five times for each.”

My heart ached with jealousy. “Tell me about your family.”

He smiled. “I love them, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for any of them. We are all very close, we share most things with each other and always hang out on holidays and events.” My heart squeezed a little tighter with jealousy.

“I’m the eldest, I’m a paramedic here in Nashville. Next, there’s my brother Jacob, he was also born in the States and he travels all over the South filming people’s weddings and parties. He’s really good! Then my brother Dante, he’s from Italy. He’s a professional soccer player along with my brother, Xiâo Ming—“

Gzhow Ming?” I tried to mimic the pronunciation at his brothers name.

He laughed. “That’ll work! It’s a tough pronunciation for sure. My parents kept all of the birth names from anyone born out of the States because they wanted to keep the authenticity of their homeland.”

“That’s so cool…” I said in awe.

“Anyways, after Dante comes my sister Eleanor, she’s from England. Eleanor is a wedding hair and makeup professional, and sometimes her and my brother Jacob will be working the same wedding! That’s always so fun. The most fun is when Eleanor is doing the bridal hair and makeup, Jacob is the videographer and my whole family has been invited to the ceremony. Those receptions are the best!” He laughed and my heart fluttered. I was mesmerized with how light and contagious his laugh was, and the way his eyes sparkled… I shook my head. Literally, no. Reign it in, girl.

“Next is my brother Xiâo Ming, whom I mentioned before. He’s also a soccer player on the same team as Dante, and he’s dating a girl named Gracie who is actually a nurse in this hospital.” He leaned in closer and whispered, “Between you and me, he’s going to propose in May! She wants a fall wedding, so he’s going to propose soon so that they can get married in October or November.”

His eyes lit up, and so did my heart. I felt my cheeks flush. “Next, I have four siblings from Japan. My sister, Sakura, and then three biological siblings: Ren, Haruto and Minato. Three boys are all siblings in real life. They actually keep in touch with their biological family in Japan! It’s a pretty cool relationship we all have with our family in Japan.”

“If they keep in touch with their biological family, why did they put them up for adoption?”

“Their father actually died and having three sons was too much of a burden on their mother, her name is Sara, so with a heavy heart she had to put her three boys up for adoption. Thankfully, people like my parents found them and kept that relationship open! They go visit their mom once a year and see their grandparents and other family. We even hosted their family to stay in our house when the adoption process was going on! We had a really cool ceremony mixed with Japanese and American traditions. Ms. Sara is a part of our family, too.”

“How old were you when they got adopted? You must have been older, you seem to know and remember a lot.” I inquired.

He nodded, putting his hand on his chin and looking upwards, trying to recall those deep memories. “Ah, let’s see…Oh! I had just turned 16 years old.” He smiled, proud that he had remembered such events on his own.

“And who is the last sibling? You’ve only mentioned eight.”

“Ah! Marie, our little French Pea.” He said adoringly. “She’s quiet at first, but don’t let that fool you. She’s an encyclopedia for KPOP singers and anime shows.”

I blinked at this foreign vocabulary he just used. “‘KPOP’? ‘Anime’?” I echoed, searching for more information.

He laughed and scratched the back of his neck. “‘KPOP’ stands for ‘Korean Pop’, as in pop music. It’s super trendy right now, and anime is Japanese styled animated shows, they’re very dramatic and adventurous!”

“Do you watch ‘anime’?”

He nodded. “I do, especially because I have four Japanese siblings! That’s how they forced me to learn their language so quickly.”

I nodded, absorbing everything he had just poured out to me. I loved his family. I wanted a family like that, to be united and love and trust one another. I frowned, trying to imagine how different my life would be if I didn’t have a father who hit me, a mother who died of heart break and grief…if, instead, I had a family who took me to Europe and Japan and learned different languages so that I could speak to all kinds of people….

“Are you okay?”

I stared into his eyes, fighting my vulnerability, but a tear slipped out.

And then another.

I bit my lip, begging those tears to retreat. I had never told anyone about my father, and I certainly wasn’t about to do so now. I turned away, trying to avoid his beautiful stare. “I’m just thinking, that’s all.”

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