Where Memories Hang
The amber chaplet helter-skeltering in a tangled weave through her auburn coiffeur made me double-check the numbers on the door. No question. Mine. In a nano-second I scrutinized the neighbouring yards and reconnoitered the street. No question. Mine. It was that brief hesitation that cost me.
A gurgled squeal penetrated my ears as a flurry of cherry silk wrapped itself like two boas around my neck. I was body slammed against the door jamb and crushed in a squeeze that would have made a mother grizzly proud. A retreating elbow whispered across my jaw line as I took evasive action. And then all was quiet as blue jeans and sockless feet skittered around the corner. I think I’m home.
“Unka Jake.” “Unka Jake’s here.”
Twyla hadn’t skittered these halls since the days she used to tangle her hair in my belt buckle as she begged to be rocketed into the sky. Womanhood had dawned on her as surely as a sunrise releases the beauty of a garden. And yet, in our home, her childhood heart was unfettered.
All our kids brought their friend of the day here. Within the maze of carpets and stairs and halls and doors this world was transformed into a “Lost” Island, Survivor, the Titanic, the World of Indiana Jones, or the Pirates of the Caribbean. The peach ottoman jutted at right angles to its usual place between the potted ferns. One palm leaf dangled by a thread above a stack of National Geographics laying like upended dominoes. I wasn’t sure whether Chelsea or Carlin might be responsible.
The aroma of fresh-baked chocolate – chip cookies wafted by my nostrils and I hastily deposited my dockers onto the shoe rack. My tie was abandoned on the banister and I cantered after the elusive scented treasure. Nimble footedness rescued my ankle from sure fracture as I danced through the rainbow streaks of Mega Blocks ordered into streets and buildings and airports on the checkered tile of the kitchen. On the Oak table two half – eaten cookies rested on a crumpled yellow napkin. Not a soul was in sight.
Gingham curtains over the French doors were askew and I followed the clue onto the ceramic bricks of the patio. Potted flowers snuggled up against the base of the barbeque but nothing seemed out of place. The tire swing was perched on its branch waiting for another adventure but not even a giggle betrayed the essence of this den of hobbits.
My environmentally conscience wife usually had her bike chained up back here but even it was gone. Twyla must have been my clue so gamely I re-entered the place of mystery. The hall way caught my attention. I was sure another twenty grins had been captured in their walnut frames. Every child we had fostered, birthed, or raised to some level of civility was obsessively arranged in order of arrival.
Fourteen boys and eighteen girls had learned to be loved in these halls. No more than six at a time but my wife Lauralyn had a heart big enough for them all.
I knew the favored haunt was the basement so entering into the adventure I began to growl and prowl and thump my way downstairs into the heart of the darkness. I wasn’t sure who child services had gifted us with this weekend but I hoped they’d been briefed about the games.
Half way across the room the lights flashed on and screaming banshees emerged from every corner of the room to pounce on the unsuspecting traveler. Within seconds I was manhandled to the floor and pinned under a mass of writhing monsters. It was only as I ceased my struggles that the growling stopped and the giggling began.
And then the surprise of surprises. “Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, May the Lord Bless and Keep You, Happy Birthday to You.” Dozens of “Happy Birthday Unka Jake” echoed off the walls. All but two of “my children” had come home to celebrate me.
Home is where sometimes the memories hang and where sometimes they bounce off the walls in echoes long past. It isn’t the age of the faces or the breadth of the grins. It isn’t how long the hugs lasted or how often the laughter connected hearts. Home is where real people reach past the things that make life hard. It’s where they find peace with each other. It’s where they hang onto each other’s hope and learn to love.
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