The day was overcast, the street almost empty, but then, it was early. Did I really want to do this, I thought? I was hesitant to walk through the door, but I wanted to see everything once more. It wasn’t even my own memories I was reliving, because there weren’t that many. It was mainly the generation before me that had occupied the rooms I was about to see for one last time.
When I finally opened the door, it was the scent of old wood I noticed first. The stairs seemed just as steep as when I was little, and there were a lot of them. I heard the sound of a little boy with his suitcase, climbing the stairs. As he struggled with each step, his suitcase banged the walls on either side of him.
The high voice could be heard, by the occupants of the rooms upstairs. “I get to stay all week-end,” he yelled!
He couldn’t hear the groans or see the rolling eyes, of the relatives he had come to visit. He assumed they would be as happy to see him, as he was to be there.
By the time I reached the top of the stairs, the image of the little boy, and the sounds he made, faded. I opened the door to the rooms in front of me. I saw a stout man, and fragile woman sitting at a table by the window. The man had his napkin tucked into the neck of his buttoned up shirt, in an effort to catch any spills. The little woman was fussing over the small dishes of leftovers she had placed on the table. She wore beads, and her hair looked like she had just been to the beauty shop.
Although none of the little saucers held fish, I could close my eyes and smell fish frying. The couple was talking, as they ate their meal, but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy observing. I had walked to the middle of the living room, which wasn’t quite as big as I had remembered. There was really no definitive separation between the living area and the dining room. Straight ahead, was a narrow opening to what I knew was a small kitchen.
As I stood in the kitchen doorway, I gazed out the window at the tar covered roof of the storage area below. I thought about how hot it got in the summertime. There was a door that led to the outside. My cousin and I went out there once to suntan of all things. We lasted about five minutes.
I turned to walk out into the hallway, and the strong scent of old wood came back. I looked in all the rooms. There was the room everyone called the “cat room,” and a room that had been used for storage. I walked past another nicer bedroom that the couple I saw eating must have used. All these rooms were to my left. Next, was an old fashioned bathroom.
I came to the second living area. I walked through the door from the hallway into a bedroom, that adjoined a small living room. The living room had windows facing the street. I remembered all the furniture, including the piano that was against one of the walls. Next to the living room was another bedroom, and next to it, the kitchen, which also had a door that led to the hallway.
As I looked into the kitchen, I remembered a story I had heard. A young woman was making a chocolate cake, and visiting with her Mother. As she was getting to the end of mixing the cake, her Mother asked if it was time to put the chocolate in the batter. This aggitated the daughter, and she made it clear that she was the one making the cake. When she looked at the recipe, she discovered a slight breeze had ruffled the pages of her cookbook, and she was indeed making a white cake. I was told the conversation between Mother and Daughter had taken place in this kitchen.
I knew it was time for me to go back down the stairs. I looked into the large living area once more. This time, instead of the couple sharing a meal, I saw a tall, and sturdy, older woman. She was packing her things. It was obvious she was ever so slowly, preparing to move. She had a sad look on her face. She had spent many days and nights in the store below, and in these rooms above it.
As I started down the stairs, I heard voices coming from the other living quarters. It was a young girl, talking with her parents. She was upset, because she didn’t want to leave.
There were many family gatherings within these walls, before I was even born. I knew those times must have been so very special.
I slowly walked back down the stairs. It would be awhile before the building would be torn down, but no one would be living at the top of the stairs ever again.
Don’t be sad, I told myself. I can always make these rooms come alive again, and nothing will have changed. After all, it’s been decades since I visited above Sanderson’s Store, yet I just spent an hour within those familiar walls.