It wasn’t difficult to remember the first time I had been to that old house.
My curly hair was drooping in pigtails, golden brown from the summer sun.
My Aunt Lilly had whispered to me as we dried the dishes, “I have something I want to show you!”
“Okay.” I smiled as we continued to work.
Soon, we climbed into her 1966 white Ford and bumped our way a few miles down the dirt road to a drive way that looked as if had not been used in years. It seemed like the bumping and grinding of the gravel went on forever. Now, I realize, it was only a half mile or so.
My aunt grabbed my sweaty little hand as we skipped up the chipping rock steps of a wooden cabin, paint long faded to the natural gray of hardwood. She took the key, clipped to her shirt with a safety pin, and unlocked the door.
It smelled musty inside, and I giggled, ”Yuk,” as I looked up at her.
“Houses smell like that when no one lives there anymore, Sarah. This is the house I grew up in. I was born here.”
“But you live on the hillside, Auntie!” I protested. “We were just there!”
“No, honey, I mean when I was a child, like you. This is where your mother and our brother Willie grew up.”
I glanced around he room in wonder. It was a mess. The curtains hung down limply, so dusty that the bright sunlight filtered through as if it were sunrise. There was a desk cluttered with writing materials,a yellowed tablet, the edges of the paper curled. a pencil that badly needed sharpened. I noticed that one of the drawers was partly opened and reached to see what was inside.
My aunt stopped me. “That as mama’s drawer. We weren’t allowed to mess around in there.”“But it’s opened ,Auntie,” I said “Why can’t I look?”
To be honest, I don’t have a reason, Sarah.” I guess it is just my remembering how we were not to mess in that drawer. Obviously, someone has!”
“Yeah,” I whined, eyes cat to the floor. “I sure would like to see what’s in there.”
“Sometimes, Sarah, it is more fun to imagine what a drawer may hold than to actually know.”
I shrugged my ten year old shoulders and smiled. In my young mind, knowing what was in the drawer would be much more fun.
My aunt and I spent another hour or so wandering through the room. We looked at boxes of old doll, metal cases filled with uncle Willie’s cars. My aunt show me how the pedal operated sewing machine worked, the drawers where scissors and thread were kept. I remember my favorite was the button drawer. In it was an assortment of buttons removed from many different items of clothing before the cloth went into the rag-bag.
“Why did you bring me here, Auntie?” I asked her as we started out the door.”
I saw a tear slide down her cheek. “Oh, Sarah,’ she cried. “I was thinking of mamma. It’s been ten years today since she died. We started clean the house , your momma and I and one day, we just didn’t come back. It hurt too much. It was sort of like the drawer, we decided we would rather remember the house the way it had been when she was there, when we were children.”
That was twenty-seven years ago. I had brought my children there a few times, my mother and I had even come here with Willie one day to get some things out of the barn. But today was different. Today, a tear slipped from my eye as we walked down the steps. We had just buried Aunt Lilly in the family cemetery on the hill. Somehow, I felt a deep, almost mysterious connection with my Aunt Lilly as I looked up at the apple tree, bursting in bloom as if nothing had happened.
Life changes, time goes by, memories are made, but somethings never seem to change. I snapped a small branch of blossoms and twirled them in my hand. I already had a place picked out for them-the would dry and remain on the inside cover of my Aunt Lilly’s oldest photograph album. Someday, a young girl with golden brown hair would remember the story that her mother had told her that day.