Sandra stood in the shade of the ancient oak that was covering the walk up to the dilapidated victorian era house. A house that once stood proud but now chipped and gray. The old oak served as guardian to untold generation of children who played under it's bows. Sandra and her sister Tessa and brother Charles unfolded a magical imaginary world among the gorged and entwined roots of the great oak.
The loamy soil of Georgia was perfect for Charles to dig in and had enough sparkle to stand in for fairy dust whenever Sandra and Tessa needed it to ward off evil witches or create miraculous things. It's bulging root system served the purpose as makeshift horses, car seats and royal thrones.
Sandra thoughts ended suddenly when her cell phone rang. She dug it out of her purse and answered it somewhat dazed manner and feeling a bit removed. It was the estate lawyer telling her that the auction to sell the family homestead had been set for one week from tomorrow. Sandra told him thank you and ended the call. Was that it? Two sentences and the family home is good as gone.
Selling the home was the decision that the siblings felt they had to chose. The cost of renovating the home was phenomenal and out of all of their price ranges even if they pooled their funds together. Besides the keepsakes had been divided between the three of them already. Sandra dismissed the idea of restoring the home. Who would be the one to live in it. All three of them had established homes in different states where their own children had grown up. She bantered the thought back and forth and finally decided it just wasn't feasible.
Still there was this feeling in Sandra's chest. Almost a feeling of loneliness or perhaps it was the feeling of loss. She unlocked the door with the brass key and cracked it open. The once gleaming wooden floors now dull and scratched greeted her. The heels of her shoes echoed throughout the house as she walked slowing into the living room.
A large square of lighter newer looking wooden floor stared up at her. There once lay a oriental rug. A rug that fascinated her as a child with its many colors of red, blue and gold. The patterns seemed to look like some things and other things at different times as she would stare at them. Two red naugahyde sofas sat around the rug and a low table in the middle. Sandra, her sister and brother were allowed to have their coloring books and crayons on this table as long as they were careful. Sandra's Mother polished the table weekly with a dark oil.
Sandra looked across the room to the fireplace with the hearty looking mantel of above it. The mantel where photos and special whatnots were displayed. There was a photograph of Charles in his U.S. Army dress uniform at his basic training graduation on that mantel long ago. Eighteen years old and bound for Vietnam. She remembered how young he looked and how the hat looked too big for his head but his intention was serious as one could see by the lack of his smile and the determination of his jaw. He enlisted rather than be drafted. Sandra's mother had cried and her father gave him a beer.
Sandra walked up the squeaking steps to the second floor of the house. As a child she would have been a running up the stairs as fast as she could. Now she placed a secure footing and held the railing. At the top of the stairs she looked down the hallway. Light cascaded from each open door from the bedrooms into the hallway. Sandra was glad that it was not dark. Light was coming in because there were not any window coverings. She walked to the last door on the end of the hallway facing her.
This was her mother and father's room. Sandra stepped into the room. She still had the feeling that she shouldn't be in there like she did as a child. The place was sacred. The faded light red rose flocked wallpaper hung down in torn patches like the torn pocket of grandmother's old apron. It disgraced the room. It somehow seemed vulgar. The underside of the wallpaper had circles of water stains.
Sandra's mother was so proud when this paper was put up in the bedroom. Above her parent's bed had been four framed prints of pink and red roses. her mother's bedspread was white chenille with pink roses. On the other wall was a picture of Mother Mary and her son Jesus. In between them was a crucifix. Sandra had a glimpse in her mind of these in packing boxes when they moved her mother from the house into a care facility. Her heart sank. Sandra's mother and father were both gone now. Maybe we shouldn't sell the house but it can't stay as it is crumbling down, Sandra thought.
Sandra's phone rings from her purse. Sandra digs it out. It is Tessa. Tessa wants to know the date of the auction. Tessa is
a surprise baby of the family. She is six years younger than Sandra and eight years younger than Charles. Tessa is anxious about receiving her share of the proceeds from the auction as she wants to build a deck onto her own house.
Sandra had not taken into account that her siblings may be waiting on the proceeds from the house to pad their own finances and here she was thinking about talking to them about not selling the house. Sandra decides not to mention her thoughts to Tessa because Tessa tends to over react. She'll talk to Charles first if anyone at all. Sandra realized she felt very tired .
She stopped in Charles room with the cowboy print wallpaper and the smell of burnt crayons. In actuality it most likely the scent of rubber cement from the dozens of model airplanes he had built. Some he had hung from the ceiling. Sandra wondered if her brother still liked to put models together . One time sandra's mother found a "girly" magazine in Charles' room when he was an adolescent. Her mother was aghast and appalled. He was sent to his father for punishment in the form of a whipping. Later in years Charles told Sandra that the whipping was faked. Their father used the time to talk to him about "coming of age things". Sandra laughed to herself.
In her old room Sandra thought the room wasn't in such bad shape. As a teenager she had insisted the room be painted chantilly pink, Her mother thought is was just too much pink. Sandra had secretly dreamed of pink and white being the theme color for her future wedding that she meticulously planned before falling asleep at night although the true wedding did not happen for years and by that time the colors navy and burgundy were in vogue. She still had a bouquet with some pink roses in it.
The curtains were pink and white checkered that her grandmother made for her. Now the paint dulled and she could see where her beloved posters and magazine cut outs of her favorite music idols and movie icons were taped to the wall. Sandra remembered being in this room with her girlfriends each pointing out their favorite Beatle band member and swooning over him. She wished for a moment she could time travel and experience that time in her life again. It had not dawned on her that in a way she was time traveling as she walked through her childhood home.
Tessa's room had fared well to with just a few tears in the yellow flowered wallpaper. Sandra remembered the abundance of toys in Tessa's room especially dolls. Dolls everywhere with their gaping senseless eyes. They were lined up on shelves. When they packed up the house Tessa took them home with her as she could not part with them. Because of their age difference it was like Tessa was an only child sometimes. Sandra remembers Tessa playing on her own in her room talking and singing to her dolls totally immersed in make believe. Sandra thinks that Tessa is sometimes still in the land of make believe. She is much more carefree than herself.
The light is beginning to dim in the big old house. Somehow, the house does not seem as empty as it did when Sandra first arrived. Her mind is filled with so many memories. Some of them good and some of them not so good. That is life Sandra thought. "I wouldn't trade them for anything" she told herself. Now should she telephone Charles and talk to him about not selling the house. Sandra sat down on the stair step and took her phone from her purse.
Charles answered his phone after a few rings. Sandra asks him "Can I talk to you about the house?"
"What about the house?" Charles asks.
"The auction is one week from tomorrow" Sandra tells him.
"That's good, isn't it" He says.
" I don't know.....well. I was thinking we shouldn't sell the house" Sandra stammered.
"I'm at the house right now" She stated.
"Oh my goodness Sandra, I thought this was all settled" "We all decided together to sell the house because it was too expensive to restore and who could live there." "We have our own homes and lives." Charles said somewhat impatiently.
"We could get a loan from the bank to restore it". Sandra pleaded.
"Maybe, you don't know that and who would make the monthly payments?
"We would divide it between us or get a renter" Sandra posed.
"That's not going to work" "I have a set retirement income and Tessa is always below the curve". "I know she is depending on the proceeds to get out of the red". "Besides, how would a renter be keeping the house in the family". "I don't want to be a landlord". "Do you? " Charles bluntly said.
Sandra could see the conversation was going nowhere and Charles was not wrong. Sandra felt like crying but she held back. Charles softened his approach and told her that he had second thoughts as well but knew it was not feasible. Her feelling were welling up into her throat and she just had to tell Charles what she felt.
"It's just that it's our home Charles". "All our memories of growing up are there". "All the traditions we used to have are gone". "It feels like a part of me is going to be gone too". Sandra said tearfully.
"Ah, c'mon sis". "I know how you feel". "Things aren't the same". "But we got our memories don't we?" " Our memories aren't really in that house sis". "Are they?". "The memories are inside of us...you know in our hearts and minds". Charles reiterated.
Charles' words soothed Sandra. She knew what he meant. Maybe home wasn't exactly a place. Maybe home could be a person as well. In this case home was herself, Tessa and Charles. The memories they share bind them together. That is their history. They bring some old traditions and create some new traditions. Charles oddly enough in his logical manner reached the heart of the matter. He reached Sandra's heart. It assured her that as brother and sisters nothing could take that away.
Sandra looked down at her feet on the stair step and something was shining in the crack. A link was sticking out. Sandra fished a pen from her purse and dug at the link and pulled out a bracelet with a heart shaped locket on it. She remembered this locket. It was one she used to have as a teenager. She opened the locket and there she found tiny photos of her mother and father. A smile crossed her face and a tear dropped from her eye. Out loud she said thank you mom and dad. Sandra knew that they were selling the house. It was settled.