As a child I looked forward to visiting my Grandma's house in Kansas. I loved everything about that house, even the curb we parked at: Clean and harboring the grass that grew alongside it. The grass was crabby and was so thin you could see the dirt through it's patchy gapes. Along side the curb grew an old Maple Tree. It towered above me and I couldn't see any blue as I looked above it, just endless leaves and branches. It was so full and tall and I imagined that there was a nest for every branch. It cast a shadow along the walkway leading to her screen door. I remember coming in for supper: chicken dumplings, their hearty aroma leaking out of the kitchen.
The screen door, old and creaking, was the same one my Mom opened and closed as a child. I still remember the handle, old and venerable, arched and engraved with tiny curls and lines. Chipping paint and small tares in the screen covered it from top to bottom. I would open the screen door and the distinct smell of soft dust, old wood and lingering tobacco would greet me once again. Then I would open the front door and I'd smell what can only be described as her smell: laundry detergent and cigarettes. I hugged her and we told eachother how much we loved and missed eachother. Then, I ran straight for the window sill in the sitting room and searched for my mothers initials, still carved from all those years ago. I always traced my finger over them lightly in the motion that she would have used to carve them.
Then, I ran for the stairs. Thirteen, I had them numbered. Number 9 squeaked. I couldn't wait to get to the upstairs bathroom where my favorite thing was. A music box, lonely and as old as I was, just waiting for me to twist and turn the key. It wanted to play just as much as I wanted it too.
Next, I checked on each room, still the same as the last time I left them. They were waiting for me with the lonely blankets and pillow cases; the old radio and Knick-knacks.
At night before bed I would brush my teeth and stare at my reflection. I took great comfort in the fact that my mother once stared at herself in the same mirror, amazing. I walked quietly to the room I always slept in, the one closest to the train tracks. I would lay awake waiting for the train. Quietly and softly it started, whistle blowing gently, crafty and stealth as if it might sneak by unnoticed except by me. Loud, louder, so loud I felt like I was forcing out the sound with sheer will. 1,2,3,4,5, train cars, 6,7,8,9,10. I could hear the train crush the pennies I laid out to greet it's steel wheels. Then, loosing track of my counting, it faded softly until I could only hear it promising to return.
Then, I would sneak out of bed to the dresser at the opposite end of the room. I opened the door quietly, silently reaching to grab my treasures of the day. Wrapped in cloth were the pebbles and rocks I had collected. They were mostly the lonely, ugly ones because they needed to be wanted too. Then I would quietly reflect on that days activities: Looking for snakes in the gutter and spying on the old man next door who only came out to dump his trash at dusk, catching butterfly's that were caught in the screen porch and unearthing old aspirin bottles my mother once used as bottles for her babies. I soon got tired and crawled into bed to dream.
I was never ready to leave my Grandma's house and always eager to return. I always thought I loved that house so much, sometimes thinking I loved it more than her. My Grandmother is gone now and I will forever carry the memory of the last time I saw her: standing on the curb, waving goodbye to me beneath the Chestnut tree that seemed to be keeping her safe under it's brave silhouette. I waved back until we couldn't see each other any longer. I went back to the old house on Chestnut after she died. It was full of all the things it always had been full of but there was no "heart" there anymore. It was nothing without her to greet me at the door. She made everything special and once she was gone, the train was just a train without her snoring in the next room.