Moving is never fun, especially when it comes to the home you grew up in. So many memories made through the years; I can almost hear them as the house regurgitates them into my mind. With every creek as the wind hit the house to every step I made brought a recollection to my mind and the great things that I lived through in a place filled with love. So many many memories. “Will this headache ever go away?” This is overwhelming. So much to do and so little time.
I really wish mom and dad were here to help me with this, but then again if they were here I wouldn’t be moving. I wiped my eyes as I sat on the front steps not wanting to go inside; all I intended to do is smoke her cigarettes and raid his liquor cabinet. I really wanted to continue to live here, but I couldn’t take care of this place, let alone pay for it. It was better to find an apartment near downtown and closer to work.
I took my last drag and flicked it into the driveway; gazing at my glass the brown tones of Jack soothed my soul. I swirled it a little before smelling the last shot as it went down then reluctantly got up and walked in, the screen door squeaked behind.
It was so quiet. I looked around the foyer – the most central place in the house. To the right was the dining room that sat the three of us every night for meals, holidays, and get-togethers with friends we knew. Behind it, led to the kitchen where my mom cooked and baked. Sometimes dad would help, but he was much more of a grill man. To the left, the family room where my dad would read as my mother and I would watch Criminal Minds while working on a crossword puzzle together. Straight ahead was the stairs that led to all the bedrooms. I thought for a moment, and proceeded upstairs. Memories raced through my head with each creaky step: first of Christmas time as a child, running downstairs after dad made sure Santa wasn’t still in the house, to teenage years sneaking upstairs smelling like cheap beer.
The easiest place to start was their bedroom closet. The clothes were of no real value to anyone unless you liked ‘80’s vintage wear, but for the most part, they had that faint fragrance that mom used to wear – patchouli. Out came the clothes, and threw them on the bed – hangers and all. It was easy and made so much room in order to see the back of the closet. There were a few boxes on the floor and moved them all into the hall so that I could go through. There really wasn’t much that I planned on keeping, and was content not sharing this burden with other siblings, but it would have been nice to have the help I guess. Being a middle-aged, single woman, with no one to give it to anyway to it was stupid to keep anything.
The bottom of the closet was cleared out pretty quickly of the larger items, and I felt motivated to reach up off the shelf above my head. One thing after the other went on the bed. Grabbed a stool from the bathroom and a flashlight just to check. Climbed up to take a peek…and wouldn’t you know…nothing.
“Well, one thing down I guess.”
I stepped down and looked above and noticed a small handle connected to the ceiling, like one you would find in an old kitchen from the ‘60s. It even looked vaguely familiar. Odd, I said to myself. I never noticed that before, but who really pays attention, especially when I never needed to come in here anyway. I climbed back up and pushed up, and revealed another entrance to the attic. I decided to close it back up, because isn’t this what nightmares are made out of? Stepping down I got to almost the last one…You are always going to regret not looking. Last one to the floor – you’ll always going to wonder.
I climbed up to the top of the ladder and cracked the lid, turned on the flashlight from my phone and looked around. Beams with nails in them, boards, and lots of insulation all around the floor just above the ceiling. Some light came in through the small cracks in the vents causing the dust to look like dancing ferries from enchanted woodland tales. It was creepy, but I had to take this moment. I panned the light all around, and there to the right of the opening was a heart-shaped box. I kept looking all around the opening not to miss anything, but that was all that was up there. So I took it, and climbed down.
It looked as if it was made of solid wood; probably oak and heavier than expected; about the size of a youths jewelry box. I shook it a little and you could tell there was something in there. I carried it downstairs into the kitchen and poured another drink to celebrate whatever I am going to find inside – money hopefully. One eye on the glass, and one on the box, I sat down.
I held the box with both hands and cracked it open. No sound, no creek, just opened it. Inside on top I found a heart locket made of gold. I raised up the box to my nose and took in the fragrance of cedar and patchouli, the kind my mother wore. I opened up the locket to find a young picture of my mother with two young girls that I had never seen before. She looked as if she was in her late teens if not early twenties. She was beautiful, smiling wide with long straight hair and what looked like a shirt from the ‘60’s or ‘70’s, the two little ones on her lap that looked like my older cousins from Arizona. I don’t think I ever remembered her to be that happy. She looked as if she had her whole life ahead of her.
After examining her and the locket, I went to the other contents of the box. There were other pictures of these girls, the further I went down the older they became. Some were in grade school, and the latest one looked as if they were in high school. But the strange thing is that most of these pictures looked like they were taken from afar; the photographed not looking at the camera, and they are doing things. Not your typical photos, but ones you see in crime shows or movies. They seem happy in all of them; in some the girls were together, others not. Some were with family and friends in celebration of something. It made me smile and think of days gone by. Childhood memories of birthday parties with friends or just baking a cake with my parents. I took another sip.
There were newspaper clippings towards the bottom. I struggled to get one open, the paper was dry and more delicate than I had expected. One of the girls, though in high school was made valedictorian and the head of her class. Nancy Lampersand was her name. Cool, I thought, though it was a terrible picture and hard to make out – Sunday May 23, 1982 at the top.
I wanted a cigarette, but really liked the aroma coming from the box and didn’t want it to go away – another sip.
I dove further into the box and found an unopened handwritten envelope with no return address– stamped August 1991. The anxiety was killing me. I stared at what was obviously a letter, taking puffs wondering if I should open it. This is all so weird – all of it. Halfway through, I decided to open it up.
I hope this letter finds you well and in good health, and if it doesn’t no matter, I had to get out the words anyway. My name is Susan Drake, formerly Susan Lampersand. I live in Arizona with my husband and our two kids, Michael (4) and Emily (3). We have a really great life and an amazing family, all because of you.
So much has happened in the last several years. My twin sister, Nancy, and I graduated high school in 1982. She of course was the smart one and was valedictorian, always showing off and such. I, not so much, but met an amazing man at ASU and he takes really good care of us. He graduated with a business degree, but I dropped out shortly after. I’m not proud of it, and hope to go back after the kids are grown. We don’t live too far from campus, and maybe I can take weekend classes. Anyway…sorry, back to my story.
Nancy did really well for herself. She graduated Med school and became a Doctor. A Pediatric Physician where she takes care of kids. She was really good at what she did. Loved it, especially the kids. She had two of her own, Marcus (3) and Sasha (2). Anyway, like I said, “did.” We found out that she got an aggressive cancer in her nodes and, well she didn’t make it. She passed away like four months ago. Her husband is devastated with taking care of two little ones, and things just aren’t the same. We are broken up, and life is not the same without my girl, the one I always looked up to. My husband and I go over there and help out as much as I can.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. Well, before the funeral mom was in the family room looking at some old photos for Nancy’s funeral and was staring at an old photo of some people I didn’t know – a couple with a young girl. I didn’t know who they were and would have overlooked it, but she started crying, and got really anxious. I asked her what was wrong and she was trying to avoid the subject saying she was alright, but I knew different. After prodding her a few times, she sat me down and started to hyperventilate. My dad walked in and after calming her down he told me that I was not their child. Told me the whole story. I couldn’t believe it and the rest was pretty much a blur.
Anyway, I wanted you to know that I don’t need anything. But I have been so lost for a long time. Some things never seemed right and I guess I know why. I just wanted to share this picture with you and hope that we can talk. I’ve been spending all my time healing wounds, forgiving my parents, and trying to make heads-or-tails out of this. I’m not mad. Well, I am mad. I’m mad that I am just finding this out. But that’s not your fault. I just want you to know my husband, kids, and will always be grateful for what you’ve done in our lives.
My address is on the back of the picture with my phone number. I hope you call. Last thing…I completely understand how scary it must have been to be a very young single mom with two kids. But I would like to know if I have any siblings out there because I really need one.
I stared at the envelope knowing what was inside. I turned to the bottle of whiskey and decided to go Irish this time. I poured a taller one, spilling some of it outside the glass. I grabbed the envelope, the bottle, and my smokes and went outside. My heart raced, hands tingled, and I paced in the front yard.
“I’m, I don’t know what I am.”
“Who am I?”
“No, not me, this person.”
“Wait. I might have a sister; another family?”
“My cousins live in Arizona.”
“But, I’ve never seen my… Oh.”
Lit up a cigarette and took a shot from the bottle. I stopped pacing and looked inside the envelope. There it was, the latest picture. I could feel a drop down my cheek as my eyes welled up. So much time has passed; I wonder if they are even alive.
The lightning bugs were out and I couldn’t make out the faces in the picture anymore. I couldn’t eat. The thoughts of my mother keeping this from me, why? I just never knew. Even though both my parents are gone, one thing was certain. I am not alone anymore.