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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)

TITLE: The Memory Book
By Debbie Roome


Mom is sleeping; a fragile figure in a sea of white. I’d never seen her like this before the tornado. She was always so strong, so dependable.

I gently touch her hand. “Hello Mom.”

She stirs, wincing as she remembers the wires and pulleys that clamp her leg into position. “Abby.” Her face softens into a smile. It’s good to see her cheerful again but I know she’s still vulnerable, still hurting inside.

The tornado was one of those freak occurrences; a violent twister that lifted the roof from our home and dumped it several miles away. With it went a lot of our furniture and part of Mom’s heart. I was in the library that afternoon, surrounded by my favourite technology: laptop, camera and cell phone. Mom was trying to secure the shutters and a flying log smashed her right leg in three places.

Aunt Heather found me in the library and together we rushed to the hospital. Mom was in severe pain but her tears were all for the house. Woozy with painkillers, the whole story had come pouring out. How she and Dad had bought the house just after they married. How they decorated it together, scraping, painting, papering, landscaping. Dad died of kidney disease three years ago when I was only twelve.

Until now, I had never known how much the house meant to her.

I arrange Mom’s pillows before handing her the giant gift bag. “I’ve been working on this for a while. I hope it’ll help you feel better.”

She’s curious, I can see it in her face; the way her eyes widen slightly and her lips part. Carefully she pulls out what I have named The Memory Book. I came up with the idea a couple of nights after the tornado and Aunt Heather was willing to help. She had the finances and I had the inspiration.

Mom opens the cover and her eyes soak up the front view of our home; a white weatherboard bungalow trimmed in apricot and knee-deep in marigolds and geraniums. A hesitant smile touches her lips. “Where did you get the photo?”

“You know me – photo-freak - it was a personal project a few months ago. I was practicing photographing buildings from unusual angles.”

She turns the page and there’s our hallway with polished pine floors and an old wooden chest. On the opposite page, I’ve mounted a square of floral wallpaper that matches the one in the photo. Mom touches it with a fingertip. “Oh, Abby. Is this really from the house?”

I don’t want to tell her how I squeezed through the hazard tape that was holding our home together. How I ignored the condemned signs as I went from room to room with a cutting knife. How Aunt Heather exploded when she saw the scraps of paper, fabric, carpet and wood that I had salvaged. Instead I encourage her to keep looking. “You’ll like the next page.”

It’s a close up of the kitchen light switch, complete with scorch marks. I always thought it strange that she never had it replaced, but now I understand. It wasn’t just a burnt switch. It was a memory of Dad and how he always tried to fix things himself.

She’s crying by page four as she runs her hand across the bedroom window. “Dad spent weeks restoring these frames for me and we chose the drapes together.” I rescued a corner of those curtains and soft folds are glued to the picture; tiny butterflies dancing in swirls of sunshine.

The album is bulky and full of memories for both of us. I included everything I could think of; dried flowers, the key to the front door, chips from the white picket fence, a strip of linoleum flooring.

“Oh, Abby. I don’t know what to say.” She pulls me into an awkward hug around the pulleys and wires and I see the masks have gone. This is raw Mom, the woman I glimpsed after the tornado. “I’ve felt so guilty… mourning a house of all things... but it was such a shock and I never got to say goodbye…you understand don’t you?” She pulls back and searches my face for agreement.

We’re silent for a while and then she draws The Memory Book closer, cradling it like a newborn to her chest. “This is something I’ll treasure forever…but I think we’ll need another one soon; for the new home we’re going to build together.”

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This article has been read 1013 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 06/05/08
What a great idea—a memory book. The conclusion is great—the memories are to be appreciated but new memories are to be anticipated and embraced. Well done.
Joanne Sher 06/07/08
What a fabulous idea - love it. The emotions were so real, and the atmosphere rich. Beautifully done.
Beth LaBuff 06/07/08
What a creative idea and story. This really tugs at the heart. I enjoyed this very much.
Jan Ackerson 06/08/08
As always, your writing is so rich in both atmosphere and mood. Just lovely.

I noticed quite a few semicolons used here, followed by dependent clauses. More curiosity than critique, really--is that an Aussie usage? (In America, a semicolon is used to join two independent clauses.)

You've been absolutely awesome this quarter, Debbie! Another placer here, I think!
Debbie Wistrom06/08/08
Clever idea. We've had tornado season here lately and it's so sad to see people's homes demolished. Your example of hope shining through is inspiring.
Helen Dowd06/11/08
This is a great story, packed with love. What a wonderful idea, making a memory book. I enjoyed the present tense aspect of it. It made it seem like I was right there with you. Very good! Very enjoyable!....Helen
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/11/08
Beautiful story. There's one tiny POV shift, but otherwise very well written. What a lovely gift.
Glynis Becker06/11/08
I love the emotion. I could feel how much she loved the house because it was 'home'. Great writing.
D. Phenes06/11/08
Very good story. Was unsure of the age of the daughter in the beginning. Very thoughtful of her to do that for her mom. Nice take on the topic.
Kate Grey06/11/08
Beautiful, touching story.
Joshua Janoski06/12/08
I loved the idea of the book for the mother. I could see this being a real project that someone could do for a loved one who has experienced this kind of tragedy in their lives.

Thank you for sharing this masterfully written story. It was a joy to read. :)
Sara Harricharan 06/12/08
Ohhh, this is simply beautiful! I'm glad I didn't miss this! Wonderful writing-congrats! ^_^
Joshua Janoski06/12/08
Congratulations on your 2nd place EC win! You deserved it. :)
Sheri Gordon06/12/08
Congratulations on your EC. Excellent writing, as usual, and wonderful story, also as usual. Nice job with the topic.
Helen Dowd06/12/08
Glad you won. You should have. Congratulations...Helen
Beth LaBuff 06/12/08
Congrats Debbie, on placing with this lovely story.
Betsy Markman06/12/08
Beautiful and touching. Congratulations on your 2nd place.
Dee Yoder 06/12/08
Congratulations, Debbie!! What a wonderful story. ( :
Catrina Bradley 06/12/08
Congratulations - What an original and SUPER idea for the topic. Great job.
Seema Bagai 06/16/08
Wow! Beautifully written. I enjoyed this piece.