I stepped up on the old wooden platform. The faded paint peeled in some places and it’s once white hue was tarnished from decay and dust. The door was rusted shut, and when I pulled it open the hinges broke with a snap and a screech. I held the door up and looked at it. The handle was worn, though not by age. Its black metal was warped by years of being handled. This door had seen many things. It had not seen me for years.
The air was stale when I moved forward into the place that was once my home. The floor creaked under my weight but held out under me. Light was filtered in by the dust covering on the four large windows to my right, which once shown through to a yard that extended into a dense woods. Birdfeeders still hung on that side of the house, though a decade had passed since the birds feasted upon these glass ornaments.
The large wooden table by these windows pushed and grinded a disintegrating rug into the floor, and chairs covered with dust sat next to it, seating only ghosts and fragments of a past. Memories returned to me of Christmas music wafting in the air and my grandmother baking pies in the oven to my left. I smiled at this. Passed the oven was the center island, once decorated with green tiles and lace doilies, it showed chips and cracks along the porcelain top and slumped to the side, as if threatening to break through the floor.
Windows lined the walls along the island, cracked and broken by storms or animals they gave out to a view of the swing set and garden. Ancient and enormous trees swayed in the wind, letting their leaves fly into the overgrown fire pit and what used to be a strawberry patch. The stones that once surrounded it were all that was left of this memory.
The gentle breeze brought me back to the present and I carefully stepped farther into the room. Walking slowly I passed an old fashion bathroom to my left. Its glass door handle was covered with grime, and on the wall next to it was nailed a skeleton key, to fit into the old lock under the handle. The black wooden door didn’t look so different, but then I realized that even back then it was old. To my right, an iron woodstove squatted in the corner. I touched the rough metal. It felt cold under my hand and left a sooty residue on my fingers.
I walked under the round archway into a large open room. Windows in front of me brightened the expanse, and made it look all the larger. Under the window, a long wooden table stretched out along the wall. In front of this table a moth eaten couch faced the window, as if staring out into the trees that stood guard along the dirt road. The walls were made of sheet rock, and were soiled by years of rain damage.
Left to the table, loomed a large black grand piano. It’s black exterior had not faded, and it’s full height was two feet taller than myself. The porcelain keys were chipped in places and the light streaming though the broken windows made a glare as it passed over them. I looked attentively at this antique piano. Suddenly my memories flooded back. I saw a five-year-old sitting on the dusty and tilting piano bench, and heard a melody that was never to be heard again. A lazy and frizzled dog lay on the floor at her feet, it’s floppy ears perked only when she moved her feet to the tune her fingers made.
“Jessy!” A voice called, and a squat woman with short blonde hair entered from the kitchen holding a plate of cookies. “Look what grandma got?” My grandmother looked so different from what I knew of her now. This was just the memory of her. I shook my head to clear these images and continued on my tour.
To my left there was a desk that was once sturdy. The creases in the wood had rotted into crevices and, like the island; its bulk sagged low to the floor. Dusty memoirs lay over the surface and a foot above the cabinet, a small picture frame hung on the wall. It’s picture no longer visible, but I remembered it was of a young woman looking out to sea. Behind this picture were two quarters, buried deep into the wall. My father put the two cents there when he and my grandfather built the house. It was never taken out.
The stairs to my direct left were rickety and looked unsafe. The rises were absent as they had always been and in my memories eye I saw two pairs of children’s legs dangling from the stairs. My sister and I ate our breakfast on the stairs, sitting on one platform and placing our meals on the next. Tea parties were held the same way. I ventured up the first three stairs, pausing only to grip the long wooden banister. The boards creaked under me; fore they had not held more than dust for a decade. Cautiously I made my way up into the second level of the house. When I reached the top I saw what I had expected to see.
At the far end of the large room, the wall was made entirely of windows. The ceiling was made of rotting sheetrock, and was built to a point, making the place look like an oversized tent. I walked to the left wall, and placed my hands on the wooden dresser. On it were small trinkets, such as a jewelry box filled with rusted chains and paper that was once filled with writing only to be faded by time. The smell of the upstairs was that of mold, and heat. Mirrors that were chipped and cracked held up against the wall above the dresser. They were covered in red and unknown grime.
I around and faced the right wall. Two beds waited patiently. The quilts were nothing but rags covering stuffed animals and plastic baby dolls. Two nightstands separated them and the two identical lamps that once offered light now dwelled in darkness. I walked to the bed closest to the far wall. It was where I once slept. The mattress, now rotted and broken, had been lumpy and overstuffed. The wooden headboard, though dusty, still held the carvings made by my five-year-old self.
The sound of the floor snapping made me turn around. When I was a child this sound had made me nervous. It had been as if the floor were screaming under my grandparent’s weight. When I turned I saw an old easel. Paint that was once red and green and blue was now brown under a layer of dust and mold. The wooden board looked ready to break apart, but when I blinked I went into flashback once again. The image was not of just me this time. Her three-year-old sister accompanied the five-year-old. Sloppily, the two applied globs of multicolored paint to a large piece of waxy paper with their stubby fingers. Abstract art was produced from their sticky hands. Vibrant colors dried in clumps on the paper, and left marks on the board. The little girls then began to create another work of art. Paint became soaked onto their little lace dresses and colored their chocolate colored hair.
I sighed at this sight as it dissolved. This broken old house was once my home. To the five-year-old figment it was more than that. To her it was a wonderland, full of adventure and mayhem waiting to be sought out. Without having to go outside and look I knew in the woods next to the house there would be a tree-house sitting on a thick stump of a tree. Beyond that a pond glistened lazily in the sunshine and brought insects for the birds to feast upon. The golden pasture stretched far beyond the pond, and a dusty tree swayed in the wind lost in daydreams about a long ago couple that carved their initials into its bark. This long forgotten place held significant meaning to me, and will continue to do so in years to come.
| What a delightful and memorable walk back into time, and into childhood memories! You have the making of a Novelist, Jessica, with the fine attention to detail you have paid in this piece!|
I was always intrigued with old, abandoned houses, and this is the reason why. They were once a family's home, and the ghosts of things past dwell there forever! I used to photograph them, and the empty homes seemed to weep for the attention and return of their past occupants! If one were to listen, the sounds of children playing, of dinner being prepared in the kitchen, the common sounds of family living could be heard from the ghosts that dwell there!
Well done, lovely lady!
|| Posted on 2008-03-11 00:00:00 | by Ron Cole | [ Reply to This ] |