Where the Peonies Bloom – Part 6

Photo by Chad Lyons

Photo by Chad Lyons

1997

The house looked as tired as I felt.  It was unlocked and as I opened the back door the smell of mold, mothballs, tobacco, rotting apples and an undertone of lonely old widower filled my nose.  I was used to it for this type of smell greets me at most estate sales I facilitate.  The only difference being if it had last been a woman’s house, then there was usually a little bit of cheap Avon perfume or hand lotion mixed in.  I immediately started assessing how long it would take to sort the house.  On a scale of the worse house being that of a hoarder and the best being that of a minimalist, this house fell somewhere in the middle.  There were the normal accumulations of a lifetime, but no great collections or trash piles to dismantle.  I was somewhat surprised at how clean and organized it appeared to be.  A quick test of the lights, a turn of the lime crusted kitchen faucet and a flush of the toilet confirmed the power was on, hot water heater was working and water flowed from the well.  Relieved, I began to unpack my provisions; air mattress, linens, cooler with the basics for breakfast and a six pack of beer on ice.  Settled, I retreated to the back porch with a beer, dusted off an old green metal chair and watched as dusk turned into night.  How was it possible that Mother hated this place?  Sometime after a second beer I must have wandered off to bed and didn’t hear a thing until someone was knocking on the back door.  Looking at the clock, it was 10:30, obviously country living agreed with me.  Remembering that I had ordered a dumpster and a moving container to be delivered today I yelled, “Hold on!  I’ll be right there!”

Looking out the kitchen window on the way to the door, this was not the delivery I was expecting.  There was a red pickup truck and opening the door I found a man about my age wearing a Detroit Tiger’s baseball hat.  He smiled, obviously amused by my suddenly awakened appearance, “Looks like you made it.”

Taking the hair elastic from my mouth to secure the pony tail I had been making on the way to the door I gave him the once over, “And you would be room service?”

“Betsy, you don’t remember me do you?”

For the life of me I had no idea, “Forgive me, but you are going to have to help me out.”

“John, remember?  My grandparent’s farm is a couple of miles up the road from here?  We used to hang out every once in a while down by the pond when your Mother forced you to come and visit?  Actually it is my place now, since my parents had left me there most of my life anyway, when they died, I stayed on.”

How had she not recognized the boy she used to wait for by the edge of the pond?  “John!  The boy who I always wished would kiss me at the pond?”

He smiled, “Really?  I never knew that, you were so busy climbing trees and looking for black raspberries, I could never keep up with you.”

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about that in years, but now that you are here all I can think about is all the fun we used to have.”

He smiled again, “I remember, all of it.  I heard from Jerry that you were coming, I am sorry about your Grandfather passing.”

“Who is Jerry?”

“He’s the cemetery sexton, your Mother mentioned to him that you would be taking care of the house.”

She wondered if she had rolled her eyes when John mentioned her Mother, “She always has a plan and how convenient for her this is something I do for a living.”

“Anyway, I am glad you are here and if you need any help, you know where to find me.  You look like him you know?  Like Francis, but with better legs and a sunny disposition.”

“I am surprised, no one has ever mentioned that I look like anyone in my family.”

“You do.  I spent quite a bit of time with Francis the last couple of years.  He liked baseball, I would stop in and we would listen to the game and have a couple of beers.”

“I am thankful that you did.”

“I am on my way to town, will you be here for a while?”

“I will be around, I think the black raspberries are about ready, maybe we should take a walk down by the pond sometime?”

He was still boy enough to blush, “That sounds great, for safety reasons I will go along, to make sure you don’t fall out of a tree.”

As he walked to his truck, he yelled back, “Hey!  I have a box of your Grandma Annie’s things my Grandma kept for years and years.  I have no idea what’s in it, you know how girlfriends are.  Stop up and get it sometime or I will bring it down.”

As he drove away, the girl in me looked forward to seeing him again, sooner than later.  There was an old mirror on the back porch and I caught my reflection on the way back inside, did I really look like him?  No matter how hard my Mother had tried to distance herself from this place and her Father, it was funny to think that her own daughter resembled him in some way.  Was I dismantling their lives or discovering mine?

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