She puts the key in the lock of the front door, turns it to the right and feels the tumbler catch. Turning the knob and pushing forward she hears the door creak as it opens. She steps inside; there is a white marble entryway, her heels click against the smooth surface as she makes her way down the hall. She pauses. The house is silent except for the ticking of the clock.
No one is home; no one has been home for a while. Everything is just as it had been three weeks ago. She walks room-to-room, opening doors, and looking around taking visual inventory and remembering the position of each item before closing the doors again. Soon all will be removed, sold off or thrown away.
The clock in the hall rings the three-quarter hour, it is almost noon; there must be a switch somewhere to stop the interminable bonging before it begins. She can’t take hearing, once more, that constant reminder of the passage of time.
The process begins: where to start – the kitchen, the bathroom, or the bedroom? Should she jump into the direct reminders or the indirect reminders of the life just passed? Armed with a black plastic trash bag she heads to the kitchen to tackle the food. Food is no longer needed as a source of nourishment. The refrigerator is mostly empty anyway; only a few condiments line the door. Into the trash they go. She didn’t pause to rinse out the jars for recycling – that is a level of detail she won’t consider now. A few partial bags of frozen vegetables are in the freezer, and now in the bag. Wipe out the white interior and one chore is complete.
The pantry’s next. Be ruthless. Sure these cans could go to the food bank, but she can’t deal with that level of concern either. She just needs to steel herself to the duty in order to make it through the day. Everything goes into the bag, and then another bag. When she gets to the cabinet of dishes, dishes that they had used everyday, she has to stop. There are too many memories of meals together, laughter filling the house; nothing will get done if she stops to remember. Shift focus quickly.
She enters the bathroom with another black plastic trash bag. In the cabinet over the sink are the bottles of prescriptions: empty them in the toilet and toss the bottles in the bag, next the creams and ointments, shampoos and powders, toothpaste, aspirin and cold medicine. Done.
There is probably a better way to deal with all this stuff, but for the life of her she can’t imagine what that would be. She tells herself, resolutely, everything into the trash bag to be left out by the curb; then there will be no painful reminders ever again.
When she finishes in the bathroom she steps out into the hallway for a moment. The house is silent now that the clock is stopped; in the silence time seems suspended. Of course, it isn’t really. Time moves forward, it doesn’t need the measured ticking of a clock to keep it on its path. She must do the same – forward, always moving forward.
Finally she turns and faces the closed bedroom door. It beckons. She walks into that room and knows she can’t put off any longer confronting the raw emotions she has been holding at bay.
Inside she looks around, she has been in the room numerous times over the years, but something is missing now – it’s essence. She opens the closet; the lingering aroma of Shalimar still clings to the clothes. Another memory awakens then fades quickly as the perfume dissipates through the air. There is nothing remarkable about the garments and shoes and purses, probably nothing worth giving away or recycling; these, too, go into yet another black plastic trash bag.
As she walks to the dresser she notices the wool rug is threadbare in spots, there is a path worn by the occupant's daily traffic pattern from bedside, to closet, to dresser, to door. This is difficult, much more difficult than she ever imagined.
Slowly, almost ceremoniously, she pulls on the handles to open each drawer. Hearing the clink of the pull as it is released, and then it hitting the back plate, brings forward a memory of a sound long forgotten. Looking inside each drawer, she suddenly realizes how disrespectful it would be to rummage through the contents that had been so carefully folded and arranged. The lined and sacheted compartments held undergarments in one drawer, nightgowns in another, sweaters and scarves and seasonal items in the next. The bottom drawer was the largest and it held the memories of a lifetime: albums, framed photos, jewelry boxes, programs and documents. Everything goes in the trash, except the contents of the bottom drawer. Later would be a better time to go through those treasures. Progress ceases as tears begin to flow – not now, not now, later.
Trash pick up is scheduled for the morning. She gathers the full black plastic trash bags, fills the cans and brings them to the curb. She goes back into the house through the garage, turns out lights and makes her way to the entrance. Her heels click across the white marble. She opens the door, noting the creak as it closes. She puts the key in the lock of the front door, turns it to the left and feels the tumbler catch. Undaunted, tomorrow she will return.
In the attic, in the corner, was a toy box filled with childhood memories. The toy box had been unopened since it found it's new home under the attic eaves. It waited year after year for someone, anyone, to open the lid and say, "Ah-h-h" as they picked up a memory that had been packed away.
The owner of the box had grown up and moved away, outgrowing her childhood like a shoe. She had new adventures to pursue, but the toy box still held hope that one day she would return.
At night when the house was still, the toys would rearrange themselves because it was uncomfortable to stay still for decades on end. There was a struggle sometimes to see which toy would place itself on the top in an advantageous position to be adored come the first crack of light.
"I know she liked us best," said the little toy horses, "she called us Pony Pony and Sugar and she always carried us with her in her little pocket."
"No, no," said Dancing Monkey music box. "She loved me most, I would play my little song for her each night before she went to bed and in the morning to wake her up."
"You must be kidding! I was her favorite," said Molly the doll. "I even looked like her with my light brown braids, green eyes and red-rimmed glasses." Molly then boasted, "She even took me on trips. I flew first class to San Diego, now that was a trip!"
The set of colored markers snapped its case open at that remark. "You have to be kidding, I went on that trip too, she put you in the seat pouch when she wanted to draw with me. We went through sheet after sheet of paper with her drawings. I remember when she drew the picture of herself flying over a city on the back of a beautiful bird."
"Oh, please," complained Red Storybook, "I should be on top, I taught her how to read. She loved to be read to and then to read me out loud."
There was Blue Bear-ry at the bottom of the pile, he was always a little grumpy and sad and never tried to move around. "If she loved you all so much, why hasn't she come to play with us, why hasn't she ever looked for us?"
All the toys went still, there was no reason. It made no sense to them at all. If she loved them once surely she must love them now, love doesn't just go away, and yet, and yet ... in the attic, in the corner, was a toy box.
I joined Writers Bloc, a group of writers from Monmouth County, NJ, whose styles are as diverse as their backgrounds and interests. Here are some of my writings from our meetings.