I’m not sure how long the house has been abandoned, but since childhood it has felt like the old home had been given over to the forest eons ago. My friends and I would meet there after school. We would pretend it was a palace, a dungeon, a pirate ship, and sometimes—when my little sister got her way—we’d pretend it was an ordinary house and we were its happy homemakers.
Although it had long been abandoned and the wild world around slowly pushed its way in—through air that whistled in between the widening gaps of the planks of wood in the walls, through the skittering autumn leaves and fluffy snow drifts that swept in through front door that eventually fell off, through the rain that would drip, drip, drip into the old back bedroom—there was still plenty of evidence of the family that once lived here. I remember finding a doll’s head, one eye missing, its yellow curls half ripped out, in a hall closet. Bits of broken china were scattered around the pantry. And two delicate wooden chairs stood sentinel in the parlor, as if waiting to greet the family again one day.
Those chairs, witness to our after-school mischief, became like friends to me. We spent hours with them and on them. In the warm months, we would carry old branches and vines in from the woods to make these into thrones for our palace. Other times, we would tip the chairs upside down and cover them with our coats to make a fort. That they were so beautiful made their presence in the old house a little spooky. Why had the family left them? There was something about that fact that didn’t sit right with me. It seemed eerie and mysterious, pulling me like a moth to a flame.
That was all years ago, of course, and the house is no longer charmingly abandoned; it is musty and dilapidated. We stopped playing there as we got older and more adult responsibilities demanded our time. It became a haunt of childhood. Something from the past. I’ve heard rumors that criminals carry out their nasty deeds there these days.
But now, as I find myself forced to flee our small town, I am drawn here once again. I don’t have much time, and I can’t let myself be seen. But I’ve come here to say goodbye. My sister knows to meet me here with my things.
Dilapidated though it is, the house hasn’t changed much after all, although it does have an unpleasant musty smell that I don’t recall from my childhood. The main difference is that it’s older. A bit the worse for wear, I suppose. But who isn’t? The lovely old chairs are splintering and warped, but their delicate beauty is still evident. Outside the breeze still pushes the autumn leaves up the stairs in such a gentle way that I want to stay. To build another fort, perhaps.
But I have to say goodbye to that and to my former self, now. Once my sister comes, I’ll say goodbye to what was. Goodbye to the cobwebs and the dust and the golden dappled light.