Chapter 1: Memory Lane
“Max and I grew up in this house. Lord, how it has gone down since we left!” I told my children.
“It’s a shame how people have neglected this place.” My son, Kevin, who sat in the passenger seat, remarked. I could not help but to agree with him.
“You know, I’ve often heard that once a house becomes empty, it falls into disarray and disrepair quickly. I can’t explain it. It’s almost as if it becomes lonely or misses the family that left. I know it sounds strange.” My daughter Skye mentioned.
“I’ve heard that too,” I replied.
Finally, we all got out of the truck and slowly walked across the yard to the house. We each peered into different windows, and the glass was so dirty with a brown film that we could barely see inside. When the kids and I came to the side door just under the old carport, we noticed that it was ajar. So, I pushed it open and called out.
“Hello!” I called as I stepped inside the house, followed by my brood.
I listened and waited but heard not a peep.
“Hellooooo!!!” I repeated louder the second time as we all began to look around.
The wind which whistled through a hole in the window pane in one of the living room windows was the only sound we heard. Slowly, the four of us crept from room to room, exploring until we came to what was once mine and Max’s old bedroom, which was across the vast hall from the staircase.
I stopped in the middle of mine and my brother’s old bedroom and looked around, studying the faded blue walls, the floor, windows, ceiling, and light fixture. I then looked at my children before walking up to one of the walls and placing a hand on it.
“If only these walls could talk!” I said wistfully, “After all these years, the walls still look the same; only they’re faded and worn. My mother painted these walls for Max when she decided that we should have separate rooms and moved me upstairs.”
I turned and focused on the door to the old closet and was instantly overwhelmed with excitement. I rushed to it and opened the door before the smell of cedar immediately took me back. I walked into the closet, reached up to the shelf over the clothes-rack, and began feeling around. I knew that what I had come for had to be there somewhere unless one of the people who had moved in after we left had accidentally discovered it. I hoped to goodness that had not been the case as I continued to feel around.
“I remember Max and I left something here. I forgot where we put it for all these years. But just the other day, it hit me. There’s a cubby hole in this closet, and I need to find something we left. I think it’s above the shelf.” I told my kids.
I stood as high as I possibly could on my tip-toes and reached over the shelf once more, then paused suddenly when I felt a loose board and pushed it into the back wall. I continued to push around the old back wall with my hand until I felt and heard another board fall backward. Suddenly, an ugly grey spider crawled out of the hole and scurried across the shelf, startling me so that I yelped like a scared puppy and jumped back. When the eight-legged creature disappeared into a knothole in the side wall, I resumed my frantic search, feeling around the now-discovered cubby hole until I finally felt something.
“Oh, my God! I feel something! I think this is it!” I cried in excited anticipation.
There sat an old stool in the opposite corner of the bedroom. My oldest daughter, Leilani, grabbed it and brought it to me. I took the seat, sat in on the floor in front of me, and stepped onto it. My eldest son, Kevin, handed me a flashlight before helping to steady me to prevent me from falling.
The house was falling apart and had an intense, musty order. We could hear the old structure creak and pop around us as the outside breeze blew against it. The paint on the walls was not only faded but chipped in a few areas. Cobwebs filled every corner. I did not know what I was feeling. It felt like just another piece of wood. I continued to look and feel around until I felt something cold and hard. I then felt something plastic.
Feeling a huge rush of excitement, perhaps nostalgia, I shone the flashlight on what looked to be plastic packages covered with a thick blanket of brownish-grey dust. I then pulled the mysterious objects from the cubby hole and out of the closet before stepping down from the stool with the aid of Kevin.
“Oh my gosh! It’s still here! After all these years, it’s still here, exactly where I left it!” I gushed, hardly able to believe the objects had sat there untouched for so long.
“What are you talking about, Mom?” Leilani asked me.
“This!” I answered, showing everyone the items which I held in my hands.
I excitedly wiped away the thick cover of dust and moisture from the objects, revealing two sealed Ziploc bags. When I opened them, I pulled out a little toy red caboose from one baggy and beautiful ceramic picture frame, from the other. Minus the dust, an ugly orange-brown residue had discolored the bags, having slowly formed over the years. I slowly turned the caboose and picture frame every which way in my hands, having a good look at them as my children curiously gathered around behind me and looked over my shoulder to watch. I turned the frame face up, and sure enough, there was a picture inside. It felt as if we had opened a time capsule.
The photo was that of a sandy-haired young man holding a huge, golden trophy, surrounded by three middle-school-aged boys and one teenage girl. I covered my mouth as we all gazed at the picture. Leilani gasped as her eyes grew wide as she beheld the frozen fragment of time.
“Mom! Is that you??? And Uncle Max???” She gasped.
“And who’s the dude?” My youngest son Trevor asked.
“Yeah, Mom. Who’s the young man?” My youngest daughter Skye, repeated.
I paused and continued to gaze at the old photo before turning the frame over, removing the back of it and took out the photo, along with a folded piece of paper. I handed the snapshot and frame to Kevin, then unfolded the document to find drawings, beautiful drawings which looked so professional and realistic! Because everything had been sealed, it still looked brand new, having been spared from deterioration and discoloration of age.
As I stared at the artwork, rubbing one hand across the surface of the paper and sitting down on the stool, my throat suddenly tightened, and my eyes filled with clear, hot liquid. Suddenly, an uncontrollable urge to cry overtook me, and I just wailed, putting my face in one hand as my body writhed with each sob. The looks of curiosity on my adult children’s faces turned to those of concern and fear.
“Mom! What’s wrong?” They all asked, horrified as two of them huddled on each side of me and snaked an arm around me.
“Here, Mom! Get up so I can pull the stool next to the window! You need some fresh air.” Trevor urged. I got up, and he pulled the stool over to the window while Leilani threw it open and let the autumn breeze blow in through the old screen and fill the stuffy old bedroom.
I only stood there, as tears streamed down my cheeks before Skye wiped them away with one thumb. I then hugged the photo, toy caboose, and artwork against my chest before lowering my head to begin sobbing once more.
“My God, Mom! What is going on?” Skye asked as she knelt in front of me, getting level with me and placing a loving hand on my knee. My other three children knelt around me, putting their arms around my torso.
“I guess I never told you, did I?” I sniffled.
“About what, Mom?” Kevin asked.
“The story behind these items Max and I hid in the closet thirty-two years ago.” I clarified. And I sat on the little stool next to the open window, heirlooms in hand, and drifted back in time…”