There was always a winter bedroom and a summer bedroom.
In the summer she preferred to sleep at the back of the house, where the honeysuckle creeper shadowed the window, and kept the room cool. In the winter, she favored the front bedroom, where afternoon sun bursts warmed her bones and soothed her arthritic joints. This was her realm. But Grandma, yearning for the end of beyond, joyfully sang with great anticipation, of a home in Gloryland, that would outshine even the winter bedroom sun.
During school holiday visits, the winter bedroom became mine. With its Queen Anne bed and rag rugs on the floor, it was just the room for a little girl. Sunny and airy, it boasted picture-book windows overlooking the garden below. Snug against the wall, the bed was covered with extra blankets each night, crushing my little frame like one of her hugs, while naphthaline filled the room, settling on me like another layer.
Through the gap between the drapes and the window frame, the twinkle of the street lamp down the road, drew my sleepy eyes, like the moths which flapped against its glow. It stood sentinel, beside the corner shop, casting its rays quilt-like over the neighborhood at the end of day. I would watch the street and garden with their silvery shadows, cast by her majesty the pine tree in the front lawn. Gradually, the light would flicker and fade as I fell asleep, always on my left side, to be sure I never turned my back on the lamp.
In the morning light, I would lay there looking at pictures on the hallway wall, through the open door. My favorite was a sepia photograph of Grandma as a young girl in the 1920s. Poised like a duchess, neck extended in youthful sophistication, there were many moments I found myself staring up at that old photograph, wondering what life had been like for that beautiful teenager. In her late 60’s, she was still beautiful, but regal too, as she presided over her boxy kingdom of summer and winter bedrooms.
Until the day when that thief death came, and took her away forever. All that remained were memories, and the task of packing up the world that had been her home. Her aprons and tablecloths would never fly again in the wind on the clothesline. Her gardening hat wouldn't hang in the laundry above the washing machine anymore. She was gone. How blessed we were to have loved her and be loved by her in return. In her generosity, she had left us a special legacy, suggesting only months earlier, my new husband and I buy the house from her, and set up our own nest there. And so, we came to live at the house on Hillside Road.
We chose the larger middle bedroom for ourselves sleeping with the window open on our first night there, breathing in the pine scented air. And it was in that newly painted room, one by one, our babies were conceived, under the shadows of the garden’s evergreen arms. Once blooming with the roses she had fondly pruned and cherished, the garden became mine to tend, and I began my days, of nursing flower beds, and dreams, of how life might grow around me.
The seasons passed and changed from summer to winter again and again. The treasured photograph still presided in the hallway for all to admire. But the house was more us now, than her. New carpets on the floor boards, a piano where the old gas fireplace had stood, and my gardening hat in the laundry. Soon I was hanging out nappies and baby clothes on the line, and collecting gumboots and toy trucks on my way back to the house. The nest, feathered and warm, sang the tune of happy chicks.
No longer an occasional room for the summer, Tommy and Matt are now fast asleep in the back bedroom they call their own. Down the hallway, Sophie snuggles into her Queen Anne bed, waiting for me to read stories, say prayers and kiss cheeks goodnight.
“Look Mummy,” she points. “If you lay here and look between the drapes and the window, you can see the lamp in the street.”
“So you can,” I smile, stretching out on the bed beside her. “So you can. Did you know this is the winter bedroom?”
“Can you tell me that story mummy?” she asks, her hand on my wet cheek.
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