Don’t look back, you’ll never be able to leave if you look back.
Tears threatened. I opened the car door, slid in, closed it and willed myself elsewhere. Quickly. Distance and time will dull the memories—perhaps.
As long as the house was ours, mom and dad were still somehow alive. As long as I could be in the house on Elm Street, Mom would still be in the kitchen looking over my shoulder, scolding me about leaving too much batter in the bowl. She was a depression baby, and so there was never any waste in our house. Dad would always be in the living room sitting in that “do-it-all-at-the-push-of-a-button” recliner my brother and I had bought him one Christmas. It replaced the lumpy, old, green corduroy chair where he used to sit “watching” television. Turn it off, and he’d wake up halfway through a snore. Leave it on, and he’d fall asleep faster than a thirty second commercial. I saw mom and dad everywhere, even after the garage sales and the trips south with the things we wanted to keep. The house, even empty, was filled with their presence.
The house on Elm Street was the last link with our past, and leaving it that day was like experiencing another death in the family. It had been home for us since I was nine years old. Dad had faithfully deposited thirty-nine dollars and ten cents into Mr. Bailey’s bank account each month for seemingly endless years to give us our piece of the world. My mother, the depression baby, never got rid of anything, including that bank book. I found it among her things after she died. It was a good thing she hadn’t thrown it away. That little, rust-coloured book ended up being the only proof we had that the house was ours. Dad and Mr. Bailey had simply made a verbal agreement and shaken hands. My dad never even changed the name on the deed.
The house grew old as we grew older, but we never noticed. I left home at seventeen to continue my education, but the house on Elm Street always remained a refuge, a place to return to from anywhere to find a welcome, and a safe haven. Somehow, I thought it would always be there.
Now it was gone. Sold. With the loss of the house, I felt truly orphaned. Someone else would raise a family within its walls, find the squeak in the stairs, shiver in the unheated bedrooms and smell the honeysuckle in the spring. Other things besides pickles and jam would rest on the shelves in the basement. Other people would harvest the rhubarb and cut the grass. I prayed that others would learn about integrity, responsibility, sacrifice, love and God in that house, just as I had.
Years have passed. The house is still there, much the same as it always was, except that it isn’t mine anymore. I visit when I am back in the country, walk by the old place to see what the new owners have done to it, and think about knocking on the door and asking for a tour. I wish I had the nerve.
It was hard to leave the house on Elm Street, but I have discovered that it is, after all, just a house. I also discovered, that the day I turned the key in the lock for the last time and walked away, I left the house, but I took home with me. What God gave me on Elm Street, and made me on Elm Street, is never far away. I carried it away. In my heart.
What a beautiful, sentimental piece! I almost forgot the topic was grief. You have such fond memories of your parents and the home you grew up in. Your emotions shine for God's glory. Thank you for sharing this Lynda.