"I can't believe it's for sale," I told my husband as we stood outside the doorstep of my childhood home the late wintry December afternoon. It had been five years since I had last seen it. And now, here we were, cold and shivering outside the white, A-framed, thousand-square-foot house in which I had experienced the majority of my childhood memories.
I had thought I could always come back to visit the house, but that luxury had been denied when the government reclaimed it after Mama passed away. They said it was theirs since it was given to her by public aid.
"I guess the government's decided to cash it in now," my husband analyzed. He put his arm around me as we walked up the snow-covered concrete steps to the front door.
"Sis and I always loved making snow angels right over there," I reminisced while pointing at the front lawn. Then, with a twinge of resentment I continued, "Of course, we always had to shovel the snow off the driveway first."
Dave gave me a comforting smile.
"And there," I perked up, "Right there, is where the carolers from the church would come to sing to Mama and us kids every Christmas."
"We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!" they sang joyfully, though I'm sure they thought there was absolutely no hope for Mama to be happy with the handicaps that plagued her.
My husband's outside perspective warmed me. "You know, she was happy, Janice. As happy as she could be."
As we opened the lockbox to the front door, it took a firm shake or two to get the door unstuck from its frame. "Oh, it is musty in here. Dave, could you get those windows?" I remarked while gagging slightly.
Before long, a chilly breeze was flowing through the open, unfurnished rooms, but at least we could breathe.
We meandered from room to room, remembering it the way it was the last time we came to visit Mama. It was difficult to walk through her room without imagining her pulling herself out of her wheelchair to get down on her knees to pray.
Dusk was approaching quickly, and Dave reminded me, "Sweetheart, you know we need to go before it gets dark. I'll shut the windows."
As he moved off through the house to close the heavy, creaking wood-framed windows, I found myself sitting on the only piece of furniture that had been left behind--a lone rocking chair in the corner of the living room.
Rocking back and forth, the lulling sound of creaking wooden floorboards brought back memories of Mama, sitting in a chair much like this one every Christmas Eve. She would choose songs for us to play on the piano as she rocked. Jingle Bell Rock and Joy to the World were her favorites, as she enjoyed stringing popcorn to their rhythms. I know she would have danced if she could have.
"Ok, hon, the windows are all closed now, you ready?"
He noticed the dazed look in my eyes and tenderly squeezed my shoulder.
I chuckled. "You wanna know something?"
"Inquiring minds wanna know, sweetie," he said as he sat beside me on the floor. He breathed a little sigh and tried to look genuinely interested.
"Sis and I could be so crazy!" I laughed out loud. "We both got matching knit scarves from our auntie one Christmas. Sis was about twelve. I was eight, I think. Along with them came these rainbow-colored knee length knit socks, but they had toes in them--did you ever see socks like that?"
Now Dave laughed. "Can't say that I did. You mean, like gloves for feet?"
I giggled. "Well, we put the scarves on...then the rainbow glove socks..."
"Then," I continued, "after that Mama handed us a package from our weird, dog-loving Uncle Carl, which had these furry, dog ear muffs in them. We put those on, too, and then posed like dogs for her. Mama was just in stitches, and we were, too."
"Ah, now, I've got to see a picture of that one--you two panting and begging for more presents," Dave teased.
"Well, I know there's a picture somewhere, though you'd have to pay me a pretty penny to get a look!"
He winked at me affectionately.
"I loved Christmas in this house, Dave." I couldn't hold back the tears now.
"Mama struggled so much to provide for us, and every day was such a battle."
"She was one tough cookie, though, sweetie," Dave encouraged, "one tough cookie."
"But at Christmastime..." I continued, "...at Christmas, it was almost like the battle was over, at least for that moment in time, you know? People were giving and gracious and good-hearted to us, even though we weren't like the rest of them. In that season, it finally felt like we were the same as them."
A huge mixture of emotions waved over my heart, soul and mind. As Dave tenderly stroked my hand I wanted to cry, but I couldn't.
"Joy to the World, the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King."
The melody bellowed from out on the front walkway.
"Let every heart, prepare Him room."
Tears suddenly flowed freely, but moments later were replaced by healing laughter that flowed just as freely. It was the same carolers from my hometown church! The same ones as from my childhood, though with a few new faces of course.
"Dave, pinch me!"
He cried out with joyful exuberance, "It's real, Jan. Your favorite memory has been reborn!"
"We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,"
"Oh no, sweetheart, you haven't seen my favorite memory yet," I warned him.
I skipped down the steps and ran through the lawn, and with the candlelight of the carolers illuminating my way, I lay down in the cold, wet sheet of white and designed my snow angel.
"Now THIS is my favorite memory of all!"
Dave finally caught up to me and drew a halo in the snow with his fingers right above my head. Then he took his place beside me--right where my big sister used to fly. I imagined our spirits lifted high as if on wings of angels.
"We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a happy New Year."
In that moment, I never would have imagined those wings landing us smack dab into our new, white, A-Framed, thousand-square-foot house that next year. Well, it would not be new to me, but it would be new to us. Moving here was not what we had planned, but it just felt like the right thing to do. And hopefully, Merry Memories would continue for a good many years to come.
"Welcome home, sweetheart," Dave whispered in my ear. He leaned down, patted my tummy and gave another whisper, "Welcome home, Baby."