Mrs. Fletcher was standing at her kitchen window when she noticed the girl wandering down the gravel road that led past her house.
“Maybe she lost a dog,” Mrs. Fletcher said to Harriett, the Beagle she had recently discovered, abandoned near her home. Looking closer, she didn’t recognize the young woman as being from this neighborhood, but there was something familiar about her.
Curiosity led her to the back door and out to her flower garden. When the girl came back up the drive, she said hello, hoping to strike up a conversation. The girl looked at her, then with a slight smile, she returned her greeting with “Mrs. Fletcher, it’s good to see you. I was beginning to think I was on the wrong street.”
A little stunned, Mrs. Fletcher searched the girl’s features for a hint of recognition.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” Her grin triggered a memory.
“You’re not Jennifer, are you?” Mrs. Fletcher asked.
“No. I’m her little sister, Lauren.”
Mrs. Fletcher’s memory raced back in time about 20 years.
“Would you like to come inside?”
“I would love to,” Lauren replied, still looking around her, surveying the layout of the neighborhood. Sadness seemed to fade from her face as she walked through the doorway, absorbing everything from smells to photographs.
Mrs. Fletcher poured two glasses of lemonade as they sat down at the kitchen table. Harriett sat at Lauren’s feet and stared, inspecting the stranger. Lauren asked “And who is this? I guess Miss Piggy is gone now?”
“She died about 10 years ago. I’m surprised you remember her.”
Lauren was looking thoughtfully through the doorway into the living room. She glanced at Mrs. Fletcher as she quietly said “I’m sorry about Mr. Fletcher. I heard about the accident, but I was away at college and didn’t have a way to come back.”
Mrs. Fletcher wiped away a tear. She couldn’t help but notice Lauren staring at the recliner in the next room, then it all came back. That’s where Mr. Fletcher had sat as he watched the evening news and held Lauren in his lap, telling her Bible stories, bringing to life the characters as if they were old friends. Lauren noticed Mrs. Fletcher watching her, so she began her story.
“He would hold me and take me into another world, far away, with stories of David and Jonah and Jesus. It was the happiest and most exciting place in my world. Jennifer and Tommy would play outside or help you in the kitchen, but I could sit for hours and listen to him. Of course, we didn’t mind stopping for your homemade cookies.”
Mrs. Fletcher remembered how Jennifer and her own son Tommy would play for hours, inside and out. But her husband and Lauren would be engrossed in adventures throughout the Bible, unaware that life existed beyond the arms of that old brown chair.
Lauren interrupted the memories as she continued, “Today would be Mom’s birthday. For the last few days, I’ve been thinking of our family home. I guess it’s gone now?”
Mrs. Fletcher told her “They tore it down several years ago. It’s the small lot two houses down with the picnic tables and basketball goals.”
Lauren nodded. “Sounds like a happier place. It wasn’t much of a home. I don’t really remember my dad, since I was only two when he died, but I heard people say it was never the same after he was gone. I never understood why Mom married Rick. He wasn’t mean to us, but our home was never complete.”
Lauren stood up hesitantly and said with a smile “Thank you for the lemonade and the memories.”
“Must you leave? I never had a chance to say good-bye the first time. How old were you, Lauren, when you moved?”
“I was only eight and wasn’t aware of what we were doing. They simply told me we were going on a trip. That was 20 years ago. But I’ve never forgotten you. This was much more of a family home to me. You were my family, my foundation. I run a children’s center downtown now and share those same stories I first heard here. Mrs. Fletcher, I came back here today looking for my family home, and I found it.”
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