There it was, I pulled up to the driveway and a rush of dread came over me. I haven’t been back home in almost five years. It looked exactly as I left it. The peeling paint and shingles that needed replacing. A place that use to feel so full of love now just looked so empty. I wish I would have come back sooner. I had no idea what I was walking into.
As I made my way inside, I was hit with dust and childhood memories. Mounds of things were piled everywhere. These things that used to be everything to my parents are now just… things. Walking through the house was almost like walking through a time capsule. I skipped over all of it and made my way to the kitchen. I figured it would be the best place for me to start because it always held the best memories for me. Memories of so much laughter and singing. Also memories of the many family Thanksgiving’s my mom insisted on hosting every year. It was always such a happy place.
My mom had passed away eight years ago now, but her memory is in every inch of this house. My father passed away about three weeks ago and it was clear to me now that he wasn’t doing so good on his own. Not visiting him in so long will now always be my biggest regret. We never were that close but after mom passed away he just became a shell of a person, and before I knew it here I was and he was gone.
After shaking myself out of my trance I got to work cleaning out the pantry. Who knew someone could have so many canned foods? It was as if he was preparing for doomsday. Although knowing his mental state towards the end I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually was. Sweaty and drained after hours of throwing molded food away and scrubbing the shelves, the pantry was almost done. If it took this long to do one little pantry how long was it going to take me to get this entire house cleaned out? It was being put on the market in a week, so I had a long road ahead of me.
I was about to close the pantry door when I saw something pink peeking out of the back corner of the top shelf. As I fumbled to reach it I was hit in the face with a swirl of dust. This had obviously been up here for some time. As I looked down there it was. A little pink hand-painted heart-shaped box with little stickers all over it. Just like that Valentine’s Day of 1998 came rushing back to me. I remember it clear as day. My mom loved holidays. Seriously. Any holiday the house would be completely decked out with decorations and anything sparkly. It was almost ridiculous and I’m sure their bank account felt it was as well.
I remember walking downstairs that morning arms filled with Valentine’s day cards for my classmates. My mom was spinning around the kitchen as usual doing a million things at once. She had this huge smile on her face as she placed some chocolate chip heart-shaped pancakes in front of me. I rolled my eyes, I was ten now I thought I was too cool for heart-shaped pancakes. Reluctantly I got to work eating them anyways. My mom was so happy how could I not. Then I was hurried out the door and off to school I went.
It was a typical school day on Valentin’s Day. We passed out cards, had some treats and I got rejected by my crush. When I got home my mom could see it on my face. That’s the great thing about moms they just have a way of knowing things without having to ask a single question. She brought out her little homemade gift she had made for me which did put a little smile on my face. It was like one of those ridiculous easter baskets but Valentine’s Day edition. After realizing I was still a little down she asked if I wanted to paint this little heart box she had gotten with her. I wasn’t really up for it so I just watched as she gathered all her things to start painting.
A few minutes later I found myself paint brush in hand painting with her. I didn’t even realize I had started. Before I knew it an hour had gone by and just like that I wasn’t upset anymore. While we waited for the box to dry she baked us some cookies in place of dinner and I couldn't have been happier. After our cookie dinner, we put some little heart stickers on our box and she proudly hung it on one of the shelves in the kitchen with all of our other little crafts.
I came crashing back to reality. I walked out of the pantry wondering how this box made it to the top shelf of the pantry when all of our other little crafts were still sitting on their shelf. Strange. I walked over and put it back where it belonged. Although, now I felt kind of dumb considering I was about to have to pack up that shelf anyways. The weird thing about this entire thing is that I haven’t cried once. Yet as soon as I set that little heart box on the shelf I couldn’t help it. The tears just came flooding out. Before I knew it I found myself falling apart, something I promised myself I wouldn’t let myself do.
A glass of wine later I finally was able to pull myself together. I got back to making some more boxes to pack away the rest of their stuff in. I told myself I would just throw most of this stuff away when I started this, but now I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wasn’t ready. As I got in my car to head back to my hotel for the night I glanced over to the passenger seat which held the little heart-shaped box. At that moment I knew my parents, especially my mom would always be there through these tiny memories we held together.