The House at #45
I loved the bigness of the house at number 45; the kitchen with its cast iron stove, the dining room where I built forts under the claw foot table, the front parlor with the upright piano that no one ever played.
At the top of the front staircase I walked through the bedrooms with their plump feather-tick mattresses and lace curtains at every window. Going down the back stairs I gripped the railing and placed one foot after another on the narrow wooden boards that led to the mudroom and brought me, full circle, to where I began.
Next to the pantry a latched door led to the back kitchen where jars of jams and homemade pickles lined the dusty shelves. Old brooms and rusted shovels stood teepee-like in a dark corner. Another door opened to the barn with its long-vacant horse stalls and trunks full of moth-eaten blankets.
Outside, red roses climbed a trellis overgrown with weeds and fat yellow bees played in the dandelions. By late summer, the back field grew so tall that it gobbled me up. And, when the snow fell and the cold months moved into the neighborhood, I climbed into the warmth of a woolen snow suit and ran my sled down the driveway, stopping just short of the busy street. Everything about the house was special to me. But I loved it most at Christmas time.
The morning after Thanksgiving, it’s still dark as my mother and I cross the street to Aunt Kitty’s house. After a quick kiss on the cheek, she heads to her car. I wave my mittened hands at her but she doesn’t see me. Just like every other day, she’s on her way to work. Gone.
Inside the mudroom Aunt Kitty is waiting for me. She gives me one hug and then another before finally letting me into the warm kitchen that still smells like roast turkey and apple pie. But, there’s no other signs of yesterday’s holiday. The dishes, glasses and silverware are washed and dried — once again safe inside the China cabinet.
Today, brown boxes cover the dining room table. I open each one, look inside and then remove its contents: Santa Clauses and reindeer, styrofoam balls decorated with pinecones and nuts and long paper chain garlands. The biggest box contains the electric window candles with their big orange bulbs. Aunt Kitty and I place one on every sill, snaking extension cords around the rooms. I unpack the final box carefully, making sure that the wooden stable and many figurines are all there; that Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus are ready for their Christmas home.
To be continued…