That old house on the hill seems much closer from the road now. The trees, thick with rust-colored leaves, make music in the wind that caresses my face. The haphazard path hosts temporary sculptures of autumn’s first trappings. The stories she would tell me of pixies and fairies hard at work building houses of leaves and twigs, always playing games with the wind and rain. I never could see them no matter how hard I tried.
I close in on my nemesis, its mantle of petals gone with the spring, still wearing sharp thorny armor. Stirrings in the wind it welcomes me, as if in truce. I remember wrestling with that reluctant bush; her soft voice encouraging, as I drag the conquered to it’s new home at the end of the path by the porch. Both of us dirty and damaged by the experience. That cranky old bush gave her such joy. As I walk up the steps, I catch a lingering scent.
The family huddled together; a dark mass of clothes to protect them from their feelings. Whispers and silence bind them, as if sound disturbs the cosmic cycle. It’s too much for me. I swiftly reach the stairs to the attic. I am carried along by memories and freeze as the step under me moans. A faint chuckle escapes as I hear her voice from a distant past “Get back to bed. It’s late.”
The attic seems smaller; the monsters lurking in dark recesses have found new homes. At the end of the long narrow room I see the remains of my special place. A fine covering of dust reminds me of how long it has been since my imagination journeyed here. Castles and caves have become boxes and trunks. I just now realize how much I have lost.
I wander around, lost in thought and make my way to the window. The wavy panes distort the view just like tears and I blink instinctively. Shafts of sunlight pierce the dark clouds and travel along the woods and fields I used to play in. I notice one beam as it hits the window and creates a golden glow where it lands.
I pause, surprised, there’s something that I never noticed during the many hours I played here; one tower of my castle is actually the back of a large wooden wardrobe. The handles are held by the sunlight. Worn by years and lonely, they beg to be touched.
I clutch the handles, warmed by the light or my imagination, and pull them apart. A soft creaking fills the dim room, and a shaft of light catches a large metal vase. A faint mustiness envelops me, as soft as an embrace and I see a large bouquet of dried roses. Next to the overstuffed vase is a picture of her, one that I had never seen. In a simple, elegant gown, surrounded by balloons, she’s holding a bouquet in one arm, and my Grandfather in the other. Their love and feelings course through the picture, into my hands and fill me with a painful joy. They seem so young and strong; full of dreams and hopes for the future. It’s the beginning of their lives together.
I regard the bouquet as a portal into Grandma’s secrets. Here they are, all captured in this vase; so many more flowers preserved within this wardrobe, than in that picture. Grandma must have added one flower for each moment, each grand event or dream or desire. I wonder what they might have been?
I’m lost in a swirl of thoughts. The sounds of chairs scraping drags me from the reverie. It’s time. I carefully lift the vase from its resting place and hug it to my chest, not sure why.
The ride is quiet. My coat has grabbed some petals, as if it needs a physical object to fix her memories in time. I barely hear the words as family and friends parade before her. It’s my turn. No words come. I look to the coffin and finally see the sprites busy with the petals that have fallen. Little homes built from a woman’s life of magical moments. I shake the vase until the last petal falls.