807Posted: March 1, 2010
My sister brought four air mattresses. We filled them and stacked them, two where my twin bed used to be and two where hers was in the room at 807 we shared all our growing up years. We both wanted to spend one last night in the house on Deering before we closed the sale on Friday.
Look, here’s the ghost, I said. What ghost? she said. On our wooden bathroom door the sap lines had run in the shape of what to me had always looked like a little man with a robe that I called a ghost. She had never noticed.
Whatever happened to your white French dresser? she asked. I think Mama sold it, I told her. She laughed and commented on how I had all my makeup and stuff there and I told her not to touch any of it, ever. Did you? I said. Of course, she said.
I walked through the house and remembered. The casual dining room always had a chocolate cake in the cake dish in the built-in china cabinet. The kitchen was full of sounds and smells and light, and Mama was always standing over the stove. In the living room our Christmas tree stood on the chest that is now in my sister’s attic waiting for my son to go get it. Mama and Dad both spent their final moments in the front bedroom after being in this home for sixty years. In the middle bedroom were a stereo, a piano, a couch where I talked on the phone for hours every night during my high school years. And the back bedroom my sister and I shared — I could look at the red blinking radio tower south of town from the window beside my bed, in the fall I could hear the compress humming, I could smell honeysuckle on the back fence. Every night in the adjoining bathroom, I’d wash my face and apply Clearasil, I’d roll my hair on jumbo rollers, and I’d read my Bible in there so I wouldn’t disturb my sister, already asleep. I read a verse every night, even late, after a date.
This place is where I became who and what I am. How do you leave this? How do you walk away from all these memories?
In the backyard Mama’s Carolina jasmine was just about to open in thousands of blooms.
Friday morning, my sister put on a red sweater. Oh my gosh, I said. I have the same sweater in blue and I’m wearing it today. We laughed and said, yes, we are definitely sisters.
One thing I noticed strongly: the house was too quiet. It was never quiet. But now it was unsettlingly quiet. Mama and Dad weren’t there, and the silence hummed in my ears.
I hung the old flag out front that Dad flew every patriotic holiday…the one I hung the day he died, and then the day Mama died. The flag signals all ends.
We went to the cemetery and told Mama and Dad a new family was going to be living in the house at 807. Then we signed on the line. And cried. And cried.