It was inevitable. Janet knew it had to happen, and yet how bittersweet. Through the windshield she saw a tired old two-story house, but in her mind, she could still envision the homey, comfortable oasis it had once been.
The stream that cut through the backyard beckoned to her, and she exited her car just as her brother Bob pulled up. Together they began to walk and talk.
“I had to see it one last time,” she told him.
“I know,” he said, “I couldn’t rest last night. I needed a final farewell.”
The overgrown path through the trees soon led them to the trickling stream.
“Not enough water in there to float a canoe anymore.”
Bob nodded. “That was never a problem when we were kids. I found my turtle Jeremiah upstream from here, and I brought him home in the canoe.”
Across the stream was a grassy field that had once been their garden. A family of seven required a sizable garden, and they both groaned as they recalled the hard work that went with it.
“Daddy demanded as much field work from us girls as he did from you boys. I never did understand that.”
“Only for the hoeing and harvesting. You’re not remembering the plowing and planting, or clearing the rocks, or tractor repairs. Your advanced age is telling on you.”
“Oh, listen to you…as if 18 months gives you an advantage! It was you and Bill that destroyed my mind. How was a sweet little baby girl supposed to get the adoration she deserved when cute, cuddly, twin baby brothers come along and steal all the attention?”
The light-hearted sparring lifted their spirits, and they began to walk again.
“Are you guys at it again? I could hear you as soon as I got out of the car.”
“Hey, Cheryl, come walk with us.” The three of them walked the perimeter of the property together, sharing memories as they emerged-planting miniature lilac shoots that would soon grow tall and full; hosting bonfires for youth group activities; picking berries from their own bushes.
“Well, I can’t remember the last time that fire pit was used, and those berry bushes haven’t been cared for in years. They’re just an eyesore now, just like this whole place.”
“It sounds like Bill has joined us.” Turning toward her brother, Janet smiled. ”You’re right, Bill. We all know it’s time to let it go, but there are some good memories here.”
“We were just heading into the house. If you promise to behave yourself, we’ll let you join us.” Bob stepped forward with his key, and as he unlocked the door, Ben’s car pulled into the driveway. The five of them, all together again, entered the house.
After a moment, Cheryl commented, “Times were hard and this was really just a humble place, but Mom treated it like a palace-it was her pride and joy.”
“I was so glad when Daddy finally added on, though. Going from two bedrooms to five made so much difference.”
“No, we started out with three bedrooms. Don’t you remember Janet’s room, behind the kitchen?”
“That room made a good sized pantry, but it was never intended to be used as a bedroom. Mom put me in there because there wasn’t room anywhere else.”
“Well, in my opinion, it was much better used as a pantry.”
“Oh, that hurt…”
“All right, you guys.”
“Mom did love to cook and bake. What I wouldn’t give for one of her pies…” As she spoke, Cheryl’s hand lovingly moved along the worn countertop.
“Every year, we’d put up dozens and dozens of jars of fruit and vegetables, and what didn’t fit on the shelves, we’d freeze.”
“Mom was always happiest during harvest.” Ben’s comment brought a smile to even Bill’s face.
Wandering through the rest of the empty house continued to bring back memories, but it also reminded them of the sorry condition of the house. Once so tenderly cared for, the years had stolen all the charm it once held.
“If only she would have let us help.”
She was so independent after Dad died.”
“Do you suppose she really didn’t know how bad the house had become?”
Nobody could answer that.
Looking at his watch, Bill quietly said, “It’s just about time.”
None of them could bear to stay. As the last of their cars drove away, the bulldozer arrived. Within a few hours, only memories would remain of their childhood home.
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