Threads of Life

Submitted into Contest #14 in response to: It's a literary fiction story about growing up.... view prompt



I could never have imagined a more perfectly balanced life growing up. There was a constant parade of characters, laughter and little shows that wound it's way through our lives.

My father was a published writer. He would spend months holed up in his vast library. Research books stuffed with scraps of paper were stacked crookedly everywhere.

We were supposed to be quiet during these writing times and with mother, that was easy. We just carried our craziness outside.

During the warm summer months, we would be in the backyard rehearsing shows. We gaily sang off~key the quirky songs that made our little shows come alive.

The old swing set was draped in sheets and became our stage. Candles placed in chipped mason jars were the stage lights.

I loved to perform beneath the starry Vermont sky. The neighbourhood kids would sit, enthralled as I acted out whatever story I had written that week.

Mother made her way through the cross legged crowd with bags of popcorn and chocolate chip cookies to treat the young patrons.

She was a spectacular mother and she devoted every moment of her life to our family.

Tommy, my eldest brother was simply a beautiful boy. He was sixteen and the best buddy to hang out with. He was not just physically wonderful, but a peaceful soul within. The girls flocked to him like birds to seeds scattered.

My rank as middle child was perfect for me. Sheltered by two strong siblings, I was left to my own devices. I did like the spotlight, and taking on different personalities on stage, but I also enjoyed my time alone, reading and just thinking, high above it all in my leafy tree fort.

Our youngest sister was a beautiful angel with blonde curls and green eyes. We knew that she was a gift to the family and we all cherished her. Bella was sunshine personified. She had the most authentic, loving heart that she shared with everyone.

We all lived happily in an old farmhouse in the forests of Vermont. A peaceful home that allowed us all to blossom and grow in our own way.

The wooden porch wrapped around the house and was the epicentre of our lives.

In summer, we would dine by candlelight, discussing whatever moved us that day. Fireflies flickered in the warm summer breeze and above our two dogs, Kash and Kerry as they waited patiently for any scraps that might come their way.

Our garden nearby overflowed with healthy vegetables that sustained us throughout the year. Canning beans and making jams for winter was always a family affair as we hustled around our kitchen and the steaming pots. It took us a couple days to fill our larder with preserved food for winter.

Then autumn exploded around us. We would dust off the apple press and spend one bright sunny day making cider. Wooden boxes of mixed apples from our orchards would be stacked around the porch as we took turns grinding the apples into cider.

Mother would spend the morning cooking and then she'd crowd the table with everything apple. Cobblers, fritters, jugs of juice and apple pie.

Wintertime would always find us on the porch, strapping on skates or cross country skies for an afternoon of outdoor activities in the fresh air. Father would make a huge bonfire in the snow that lit our porch with a warm, reddish glow.

We'd return home, chilled, tired and happy. Mother would be there with hot chocolate piled with tiny marshmallows and cinnamon toast by the fire.

Spring always arrived slowly, until one day we realized that everywhere we looked were beautiful buds and green fragrant grass. The lilac tree beside the kitchen window exploded in a heavenly scent and purple blossoms. Mother would always make us lilac water by soaking the flowers in spring water for a few hours. I can still see her wiping her lips with a grin, stating seriously that she was sure this is what the angels must drink in heaven.

Every holiday in our home was treated with fanfare and great preparations. We often shared our celebrations with our friends and neighbours.

Everything changed that fateful summer. I remember Mother and I were sewing something with a pattern on her old singer sewing machine at the kitchen table. Tommy and Bella were down by the pond with the dogs. Suddenly, the two dogs bounded up the hill. They spun and jumped together to get our attention through the window. When we came outside, they both barked sharply then frantically led us down the hill, back to the pond.

My breath caught in my throat as I recognized the pink jacket of Bella floating beside the reeds. Mother flew by me and threw herself into the cold water. She grabbed Bella and laid her on the grass.

Her beautiful face was an icy blue. Her eyes were open, but she lay motionless. Mother cried frantically as she tried to revive her dead daughter with mouth to mouth resuscitation.

I knew that we had lost her. I believe that she was looking for pussy willows and got tangled in the weeds. Tommy had left her for a minute to get some string from the shed to make bouquets for us.

Mother sobbed wildly as she held her beloved Bella to her chest.

Numb to everything, I climbed to my tree fort and sat there all afternoon. I did not want to talk or think. I did not even want to know why.

My family returned home from her funeral without a word.

We then went our separate ways.

Dad went to his library, the door closed firmly behind him.

Mother remained in her room, inconsolable as she lay weeping across the bed.

Tommy sat on the porch with the dogs. They lay nervously at his feet, sensing the change about them.

Things were never the same after that day.

The apple press sat for years with no apples tumbling through.

We did not realize it then, but the dinner we shared on the porch the night before she drowned, would be the last time forever we ate there together.

Bella's bedroom door stayed closed for years. Her pink frilly four poster bed and stuffed bears remained frozen in time.

Father told us one night soon after the drowning, that he was officially retired and spent his days in the garden.

Mother never said a word about it, but she had retired also, from life I'd guess.

Tommy went off to college that fall and never returned. He travelled around Europe for a few years then suddenly married a girl from Poland. They have two children who I have never met.

My life seemed to break into two parts that day. One part, when Bella was alive in our midst and the other, the moment she died.

I sadly realized just how fragile our happiness was.

It still puzzles me to this day.

I reached out to my parents. They were there physically of course, but that bright, happy spark they shared with us, had been snuffed out forever.

Mother died last year from breast cancer, but I think the cancer took shape in her shattered heart.

Then Father died just last week in a car accident. Sadly, I returned home once again to pack it up and put the old house up for sale.

Alone, I walked through the cold hallways and let my heart wander. I could still hear their voices, faint yet clearly in my mind.

"Watch me, Tommy," little Bella's singsong voice swirled around me.

"Does that sound like a wise choice?" My father's deep voice echoed softly, one last time.

"Hey June bug, want to come fishing?" Tears ran down my face as I remembered all the wonderful memories of my now broken family.

I sat at the kitchen table and looked around. The few remaining jars in the larder were laced in dusty spider webs. The oven that was always warm and produced such wonderful smells and meals, now sat cold.

The pain covered me like a blanket as I did my final task..

The big box of photos that never got slotted into the photo albums.

I took a deep, jagged breath. That afternoon, in the weak sunlight that slanted across the worn table, I revisited, through moments glimpsed in happier times, my wonderful family and childhood.

The photos spread out around me like a mosaic of memories. All of us smiling, happy, having fun.

Now alone, I sadly realized that we were only connected and held by the fragile threads of life.

November 07, 2019 19:16

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