by Rebecca Taylor

**Previously published by Bread n’ Molasses**

“We were so young back then weren’t we, Henry, we thought we could conquer the world and now look at us. You’ve passed on and here I am going through all this clutter as the kids say, I call it memories. They want me to move into a retirement home, they even took me visiting there; the people and rooms are nice. I know this house is too big for me; after all, we did raise five kids in it. There’s just so much stuff here and I can’t take much of it with me, said Miranda Jane Cummings standing in the entrance to the spare room of her large grey house on the corner of Elmhurst and Bath streets. The room along with the rest of the house was filled to the brim with boxes, bags, and parcels in every nook and cranny imaginable. She stood looking at it all. She picked up a photo album and started flipping through it.

            “Well here I am; I’m going to go through this stuff. These pictures tell so much about our lives. Why here is a picture of Mary when she was born, I didn’t hardly know how to hold a baby back then being the youngest in my family and everything. And here’s a picture taken the day Jeremy started college. He was so afraid of leaving home and look at him now living four hours from home with a good steady job. Here’s one taken the day Aaron got his driver’s permit, you taught him to drive because he made me nervous on the road. Of course, roads weren’t as busy sixty-five years ago and well when I learned to drive, I just got into my uncle’s car; he’d left the keys in and away I went. Was my mothers ever mad, she said, get in the house and behave yourself. I was ten years old! That was one of the first ones around in our neck of the woods.” She put the photo album aside and continued going through the boxes.

            “Here’s a valentine Veronica made us when she was in first grade. The writing is so hard to read but it is one of those things that a mother loves. There’s a bundle of letters, you wrote me, Henry, when you went to war. We were so worried about you; I was a young mother, with two kids and another on the way when you left. You came back safely, so many others weren’t so lucky. You got to see those three kids grow up and we were able to have two more when you came back. Just look at us now, we have twelve grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren. Oh, look at this, the horn from Michelle’s first tricycle, my baby girl, how she hates being called that, to me that’s what she’ll always be even though she is fifty-eight now, that makes me feel old, knowing that I have children who are seniors and retired, I guess I’m just lucky to be able to be here for it all.

            “Grammy,” called a voice from downstairs, “Grammy, where are you?”

            “Up here, in the spare room, come on up, Lacey,” called Miranda.

            “Grammy, what are you doing?” asked the young woman, tossing her fawn coloured hair over her shoulder and kneeling down beside the tiny grey haired woman.

            “I’m just going through a few of these boxes; it should have been done years ago when your Grampy was here but it just never seemed to get down and now your mom and aunts and uncles  are telling me that I should be thinking about going into a nursing home. I know they’re just worried about me because they’re so far away. You’re all so good to me, not a week goes by when I don’t have visitors.”

            “We love you, Grammy, and want what’s best for you. At Oakvale Manor, you will be surrounded by good, caring people plus you can make lots of friends and we’ll still come visit you. There’s so much going on there. Guess what happened to me last night?”

            “Oh, honey, I’d probably never guess in a million years, and I just don’t have that kind of time anymore,” answered Miranda laughing.

            “I got accepted to the teaching staff at Melville High, which means I’ll be moving back here and will be able to visit you even more often.”

            “That’s a great opportunity for you, so young and already you’ve got your life on the right path, seems like only yesterday that I was teaching your grandmother to read and now here you are all grown up, I should feel a lot older than I do but you all keep me young.”

            “Oh, Grammy, a woman like you will have eternal youth, we’ll see to that. Now, what have you got in all these boxes?”

            “Everything, little reminders from my whole life. I won’t be able to take it all with me when I go to a retirement home.”

            “You can’t take all the little things, like this old guitar-“

            “That was your Aunt Mary’s, she used to play that thing for hours at a time, I guess she outgrew it. Maybe I’ll give it to her for her birthday.”

            “Your memories, of this guitar and everything that went with it and all this other stuff, it’s all in your head and they can go with you anywhere and that’s the important thing. Home sweet home, the mat on your front porch says, it can be a place but it can be a frame of mind too. I’ve moved around so much these last few years going to school that sometimes I don’t feel like I have a real place to call home but as long as I have my family and my memories I’m okay. Home sweet home to me has been a fresh baked apple pie, like mom makes and the smell of cinnamon incense like Nanny has and sitting down at a table to have tea and a chat because that always reminds me of you.”

            “For being twenty-three you’ve learned some things in this world that has taken me a lifetime.”

            “That’s because I’ve had people like you to teach it to me.”

            “And I have ninety years of memories to take with me when I’m ready to leave this home. Thank you, I was feeling down about moving and you’ve lifted up my spirits, will you take me for a visit at Oakvale Manor, I’d like to see it again, with a different frame of mind this time. My home sweet home, mindset.”

            “You’ve got it, and wherever we go and in whatever we may do may we always feel like we are home sweet home.”