My mom died when she was 89. My dad went on to live another ten years, passing at the age of 99. Although we both missed Mom very much, I worried about him being alone. But as good blessings would have it, during those last ten years he had a wonderful friend by the name of Maxine. I loved Maxine. She made Dad happy, and she was like a big sister for me. I liked to think of us as The Three Musketeers. Our favorite pastime was to ride from their home in Ridge to the land of “Out East”.
Along the way to the land of “Out East”, really Suffolk County, Long Island, Maxine’s and my attention would be drawn to all the old falling-over, dilapidated houses along the way. “Wow,” we would exclaim. “What we couldn’t do with that one if we had $100,00.00.” We would discuss the windows and the siding, the color schemes, and how to change the floor plan. Dad, however, was not amused. In fact his usual comment was, “Are you nuts.”
Maxine passed a few months ago, and now when I travel to the land of “Out East”, I think of those jaunts. When I pass one of the derelict houses, I remember our plans. The houses now took on an almost haunted affect for me.
Recently I was browsing through a current issue of “National Geographic”, and was captured by an article about an old abandoned house in the woods in Finland. The focus of the article was the woodland creatures that had moved in to make the old place their home. I began to think about the house. How did it feel about its new inhabitants? Houses do have their own character and spirit, especially old ones. That is what I think a haunted house is, just folks seeing or feeling the spirit of the house. And so, I decided to write a short story about a house and a family of squirrels who move into her chimney.
“I felt the creaking, my various parts, doors and windows, rusted and old now, from disuse. The sun was turning the sky in the East from navy blue to purple.
Aha! There she was again, the quivering, glossy red intruder, raising my hopes, stirring those films and motes of dust that coated every nook and cranny of my consciousness, my being. Her nose inhaled the breath that lay so deep in me, unused it seemed.
She entered, the dust stirring, hope growing from flicker to tall flame. She leapt nimbly from the door to the window, its broken smoky panes my eyes to the world outside. The eyes that twinkled with welcome when the sun shone, inviting someone to come in, and make a home again.
He came, like a spore sprung from its capsule, with an acorn and a sprig of Timothy hay, landing on the sill. His sudden appearance there caused me to gasp, creating a flurry in my dust dress, like snow, rising instead of falling, sun-spangled in the morning light.
He froze, poised to leap back out the window. Oh, no, I thought. Please don’t go. Suspended in those glittery particles we three waited.
Whoosh! With a switch of their tails, and another explosion of diamond dust, they bounded to the hearth. Just then the sun had risen enough to peek through the trees, making my windows wink with the golden reflection of my joy. A nest in my fireplace! At last, the little red creatures are making a home.
I hope you like this story Maxine, wherever you are. Mom and Dad, too.