My name is 23 Havisham Place. Paint peeling, termites making lace of my siding and rough plywood covering my windows. People call me all kinds of names, they always have. Once, they said words like stately, welcoming, and beautiful, but now it’s spooky, haunted and lonely. Home is my favorite word. Especially because once, Home meant me.
I am lonely. I am haunted. Rats run through my halls, bugs crawl in the corners but I don’t see them. The cooing of the birds in my attic goes unheard. They shelter here but these creatures are not friends of mine. I do not embrace them. I want to cry out for someone to come and sweep the droppings, feathers and webs away. Only the wind replies, whistling through the spaces that have grown in my walls, pushing rain down into the gaps in my roof. Grass has claimed my gravel driveway and slate path, rot stole my wide porch a bite at a time, a slow, hungry thief.
Children who sang about London with it’s falling bridges have grown and gone. The triumphant crack of a bat against a leather baseball lingers in my memory, not the tinkling surprise of the broken windows that immediately followed as the little boys scattered for cover. There have been so many, I but I remember each one, all of their skinned knees, bumped shins and one particular terrible moment when a ride down the shining bannister resulted in the doctor paying us a visit. Parties with lemonade and cake, Christmases that made me more beautiful with it’s magical golden glow – all of them happening over time and all together, I see them all instead of the mold, pests and loneliness.
I see all the moments of joy. Every bride lingers on the gracious staircase. Each one as perfect and lovely as the roses that climbed the porch railings. They glided down the ever changing carpet on the stairs, delicate whirls of silk, puffs of organza and lace, elegant wartime blue suits, even jeans and a blouse of linen so fine it was made of promises instead of threads. Babies took their first steps on my wide floorboards, precious, tiny feet beginning the inevitable march toward life and away from me. Bitter and sweet, all comes with being Home and how I wish I could have all of that again! I yearn for it, even the tense hours before the significant goodbyes. Young men, awkward in their stiff military uniforms said farewell to their weeping mothers on my front porch. How I would watch them go, until that last look back, their eyes seeking the window of their old room, wondering if they’d ever see my green shutters again.
One soldier did see me again, to spend the rest of his life keeping my shutters painted and my chimney whole. His family did their dance of life for me every day, until one by one they were gone.
The soldier broke his hip on the frozen front path one harsh winter. The ambulance took him away. I didn’t see him looking back at me that time, and that’s when I knew he’d never come home again. The roses died two weeks later.
The apple trees fell one by one during a summer storm. The family came to take the old solider’s things away. Then they were gone and not one of them looked back.
People think I am populated by ghosts. If such things exist, I would welcome them. Until a spirit arrives, I am populated with memories. I am furnished with things long forgotten. I am decorated with love lost never to be found again.
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