54: Home to the B&B

54: Home to the B&B

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Home to the B&B

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life — to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.

~George Eliot

After my mother’s death, I was sorting through her box of photos. I found assorted pictures of my sister Mary and me on our First Communion, peeking out of a tent, sitting with our then current pet, playing with cousins. Other pictures showed my brother alone by a Christmas tree, playing with toys, being held by my mother, wearing a little league uniform.

My sister was eight and I was six when our brother, Steve, was born. We were two different families. My sister and I went on hikes with Dad, tagged along with him while he worked at his electrical business, and pretended to drive while we sat on his lap and steered the 1936 Ford sedan. Since our mother kept Steve close to her side, he doesn’t have the memories of a family unit that Mary and I share.

On Steve’s third birthday, October 2, 1945, the family moved into a large 120-year-old two-story Victorian house sitting on a rise of terraced land at the top of a hill. The house was built in Golden, Colorado in the late 1800s by a prominent judge whose niece was a silent film star.

After high school graduation, I married and moved to California. Mom and Steve followed us the next year. Dad sold the house two years later. My sister, who owned a ranch in the mountains above Golden, kept us informed each time the house sold, along with the ever-increasing price and finally its conversion to a bed and breakfast.

As we three went about our separate lives, the family ties stretched but we kept in touch on holidays, birthdays and an occasional family reunion. Nevertheless, with the exception of our parents’ funerals, the three of us never spent time alone together.

When I found the website for The Silk Pincushion Bed & Breakfast and took a virtual tour of the rooms, I called my sister. “Wouldn’t it fun to rent our bedrooms?”

“Absolutely,” she cried. “You call Steve. I’ll call the B&B and tell the owner who we are and set up the dates.”

Before long all the plans were laid. Now, fifty years after the last of us left home, the oldest child, the middle child and the baby were making a pilgrimage back to their childhood home.

We parked on the side street and stood together looking up at our homestead. The lawn was manicured, but the large tree that shaded the front of the house was gone. The retaining wall that Dad built years before still held the front lawn in place but the brick sidewalk was covered by dirt and grass. The shape of the house was the same but the white walls were painted gray. It was our house, but something was off.

“We’re all here,” my brother said. “Time starts now.”

The owner answered our knock and handed Steve the house keys. “Welcome home,” she said with a smile. “The house is yours. I’ll be back to fix breakfast in the morning.” We eagerly went inside.

The stairs to the second floor were in the same place, and we lugged our suitcases up to what were once our bedrooms. The room that my sister and I shared was in the front of the house. The walk-in closet had been converted into a bathroom and an air conditioning unit blocked part of the window. A large queen-size bed had replaced the twin beds.

Steve took the room over the dining room. It was small and had been remodeled, but his memories were there.

The big air return register at the bottom of the stairs, where we secretly swept the dirt from the stairs, was gone. The hall furnace register, where we warmed ourselves when we came in from the snow, was also gone — all replaced with a wooden floor.

The kitchen seemed smaller. The sink was in a different place and cabinets were on what had been a blank wall. It felt like I had been in a similar place, but the room didn’t fit with my memories. The kitchen window was in the same place, and I could picture Steve’s football sailing through the air and shattering the glass as it missed its target — my head.

We ventured into the dining room, which was just as I remembered it. If I closed my eyes, I could see the tracks of Dad’s electric trains snaking around the floor in different configurations.

I walked to the middle of the living room and tried to dust off the memories, but I simply could not scrub away all the years that had distorted the view. It was like looking into a mirror that had lost its reflective ability — there was an image, but it was not clear.

Later we walked the two-block-long main street and argued over which store occupied what site, never entirely agreeing.

“This was the Red and White Grocery,” recalled Steve.

“I think this was the hardware store,” challenged Mary. “The next store was the Red and White.”

We had coffee in the building that once housed the five and dime store where I worked when I was a student. We ate dinner at a restaurant that had been the home of our parents’ friends.

Too soon our four days together were over. The memories were tucked back in their special places, the small hometown receded back into the fog and we stood in the driveway of “our house” surrounded by our luggage. One last kiss, a tight hug, a promise to meet next year and we went our separate ways again.

I felt a stronger connection to my siblings, and I wished I had known them better when we were children. Now we have decided to meet again, in a different place next year, to explore old memories and make new ones.

~Ruth Smith

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