Mommy had it out! She had it out; it was time! I jumped and clapped my hands and ran over to the couch where she had set out the fabric for my dress. “You’re making it for me, Mommy? You’re making my big four-year-old dress now?” I grabbed for the fabric and pulled it down so that fell open and over to the floor. All those little purple flowers would be on my dress! As I looked at my fabric flowers hanging down to the floor, I wrapped the part at the top around my hands, because it felt nice and cool when it touched them.
“Now where did my sewing scissors go? What do you think, Melody, did Daddy take them again?” I looked up to see Mommy turning around from her cabinet. “I’ll go see, and then we’ll get started, okay?”
I was feeling bouncy, so I bounced as I nodded.
When Mommy left, I had me and my fabric. I pulled the fabric tighter around my hands, because it was mine, and I was allowed, and I wanted to feel it.
Then I held it up and ducked my head underneath it, and I set it on my shoulders. Pulling it down from there, I wrapped it around and around and down my legs until it reached the floor and sat there. Flowers all around me now. I tried to spin, and the fabric pulled tight so I fell, but it was fun and I laughed as I got back up.
Then I could hear Daddy’s voice in the hall, “You see, Trace – you found them right where you left them.”
“You troublemaker!” came Mommy’s reply in the voice she used when she sometimes talked upset with me, but wasn’t.
“Mommy! Daddy!” I called. “Look! Come see!”
“Coming, sweetie. I’m coming.” Mommy’s voice came first and then she did, with Daddy coming after her.
“See, Mommy? See?” I lifted up my arms to show her my dress.
Mommy smiled big when she saw me. “Ooooh, look at you!”
“Look at you, indeed!” Daddy laughed, and he walked toward me with his hands held out.
“Oh, up!” I started to run toward him, but my dress grabbed my foot so that only the rest of me could go forward. I fell… but then Daddy’s hands were there.
“Goodness! Careful, sweetie!”
Then I went up and up, and I was up high, and Daddy was under me smiling at the end of his arms. “Wheeee!” I squealed. “Spin me! Spin me!” And Daddy spun and the room spun, and I stretched out my arms, and I was flying.
“Mark, honey, could you bring our birdie down so I can start working?” Mommy’s voice came from down below, near the floor.
“No! No! Spin me more!” I didn’t want Daddy to stop; I wanted to keep flying. But Daddy slowed and began to bring his arms, and hands, and me toward him.
“Hold on a minute. We can spin more after we give Mommy the fabric for your dress.”
“No!” It was mine. “I want to spin with my flowers! Again, again!”
“But honey, I can’t make your dress if I don’t have the fabric.”
I frowned a little bit. Not make my dress? But I had my dress, and it was on me. But Mommy was supposed to make it for me…
“Can we give the fabric to Mommy, Melody?” Daddy sounded like he wanted to.
“Ummmm… Yes!” I began kicking and pulling at the fabric, trying to wiggle out of it.
“Hold on, there, Kiddo!” Daddy’s talking mixed with his laughing. “Let me help.”
So Daddy unwrapped my fabric, and I wiggled and pushed it off me, and then we gave it to Mommy.
“Thank you, baby.” She said as she took it. I watched from Daddy’s arms as Mommy spread the fabric out flat over top of her big green plastic mat. She took out papers that made a crinkly sound when she moved them, and Daddy sat down with me on his lap. Mommy and Daddy started talking about my dress and their work and tomorrow being Sunday and something they wanted to do tomorrow after church. I watched Mommy poking the pins I’m not allowed to touch through her papers and my dress. I wondered why she was doing that.
Then she took her scissors and started cutting.
“No! No!” I tried to jump off Daddy’s lap. She was cutting my dress? How could it be my dress if she cut it? “Stop!” Daddy’s arms were keeping me from getting down, and I tried to squirm and get away.
“What, baby?” Mommy asked.
“No! Don’t cut!” I kept trying to squirm, but Daddy held me tighter.
“But I have to in order-”
“No!” I cried louder, frantic. She had promised me my dress!
“Melody.” Daddy’s voice sounded unhappy. “You need to stop yelling. It’ll be okay.”
“No! No!” I pleaded, still fighting to get down and save my dress. I started to cry.
Daddy made a “shhhhh” noise while Mommy said, “It looks like somebody’s tired. Do you need to go down for a nap?”
“No! No nap! Don’t cut!” How could she? It was my dress!
“You need to settle down, Melody, if you want to stay up.”
But by then all I could do was cry and rub my eyes, still squirming, though I really had no hope of saving my dress now.
“Yep, that’s tired if I’ve ever seen it.” Daddy said and stood up with me. He started walking toward the door.
“Don’t cut it! No nap! No!” I cried in despair.
“I’ll go and get the mail on the way back,” Daddy told Mommy as he turned the corner.
I just cried harder as I watched the crinkly paper over top of my purple flowers disappear behind the wall.
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Finally, Melody was in bed, and I couldn’t suppress the sigh of relief as I walked outside toward the road where the mailbox stood. Oh, Melody… I love you, but you just don’t live up to your name when you need a nap. I grinned and shook my head. But then, I suppose not too many just-turned-four-year-olds do. I opened the mailbox and pulled out the mass of envelopes and magazines inside, closing it again afterwards. Turning back, I began shuffling through the letters as I walked. Bill… bill… credit card offer – and then I stopped. Clerbourgh City Office of Public Projects. “Hmmmm… I wonder what the official word is…” I started working at opening the envelope as I continued walking. Some months ago, we’d received notification that within the year the city would be “implementing an emergency road expansion project to resolve acute traffic problems caused by…” a full list of problems and precedents I certainly hadn’t tried to memorize. But the short of it was that they would need to buy an unknown portion of the border of our property. That letter had promised a future letter to “advise you as to the extent of the property required and to specify compensation for the same.” This would be it, then. I was curious to know what they’d need. Entering the house, I tossed the rest of the mail on to the living room table and headed to the family room where I’d left Tracy, reading on my way.
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It seemed to take quite a while after Mark had left the room, but Melody’s cries had finally quieted down. I continued my cutting and shook my head. You have a will of your own, there, dear, that’s for sure. I thought, then smiled. “She gets it from you,” I often teased my soft-spoken Mark. And actually, it may have been truer than the joke let on. He was quiet, yes, but he could also stand his ground when he wanted to. He could drive me crazy standing his ground. But he challenged me, and that was one of the things I’d fallen in love with about him.
So yes, I suppose Melody may have gotten some of her will from him. But she certainly got her way of expressing that will from me. Blunt. Insistent. Loud. Whatever was at hand, we’d pour ourselves into it. But Heaven help us if we needed to let go.
I could hear Mark in the hallway. “So, did Melody go down okay?” I asked, beginning to cut next piece as he walked into the room. He said nothing, and I looked up. I frowned at the frown on his face, and I set the scissors aside. “What’s wrong, honey?” He took a step forward and handed me a paper before picking a way around my mess of pattern pieces and fabric to sit beside me on the floor. A little nervous at my husband’s manner, I scanned the page…
Clerbourgh Office of Public Works
RE: Project 10329 – Rillside Road Expansion
Pursuant to the plans ordered and approved by the Clerbourgh Council of Public Works… specifications set out by city-approved surveyor and engineer… Rillside Road Expansion Project… report detailing execution requirements… includes properties of Lot 409 in full…
“Wait!” I looked over at Mark and then back to the page. “‘In full?’ As in, the house and everything?” I read the line again, hoping I’d simply misunderstood.
“That’s what it sounds like.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “But… but they said before that they only needed part of the property.”
“I know.” His voice beside me was even and steady.
“The whole thing, though? The house, too? This means… we have to move.”
How, I wondered, could even he be so calm? “But… just like that? They can’t – we can’t – I mean, how are we supposed to just leave?” I reached for my scissors and began to fiddle with them in agitation.
“I don’t know,” Mark’s voice came quietly from beside me once again.
I couldn’t stand it. I let the scissors clatter to the floor. “Mark, aren’t you even upset about this? Don’t you care? This is our home!” I turned toward him, ready to continue… but then my eyes met his, and they stopped me short. “I’m sorry, honey. That was unfair. It’s just that this is so–”
“Unexpected. Yes. I’m… shocked. I never imagined this.”
“Isn’t there something we can do?” But Mark didn’t reply, and he didn’t need to. I tossed the paper from me, wishing I could have been tearing it to pieces. Instead I just sat there, uncertain even of what to feel. Why, Lord?
Mark’s arm slid around my shoulders and pulled me close to him, saying nothing for a moment. Then I heard a whisper in my ear. “You know what, Tracy?”
“I love you.” He leaned over and kissed me.
I smiled a little, then kissed him back. “I love you, too.”
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It was lots of days ago that Mommy and Daddy told me about something called moving. It seemed funny how they talked about it. They usually said I was always moving. But then they told me we’d be putting all of our things and all of my toys into boxes and taking them to some place new, and I would have a new room. Moving also meant that Mommy and Daddy were very busy, and when they were home from work, or on days they didn’t have work, we went visiting lots and lots of houses. There was never anybody home at those houses except the same lady, but she was nice and said I could call her “Re-a-ter Beth” because the other name was too hard.
Whenever we went visiting houses, Mommy couldn’t work on my dress. But tonight she got it out again.
She had it all in pieces. It wasn’t big and couldn’t wrap around me anymore. She said she was still working on it, though, and now she was sitting by her sewing machine and sticking pins through some of the pieces. She would put two of the pieces right next to each other and make their edges look the same. Then she’d push one of her pins back and forth through them both until it stuck them together. There was something wrong, though.
“Mommy,” I asked, “why are the ugly sides on the outside? The colors aren’t nice, and you can’t see my flowers.” I tried to pull the two pieces apart to show the side I wanted to see.
“Oh, no, honey, don’t do that.” Mommy stuck in another pin. Then she reached for my hand and pulled the fabric away from me. “You’ll get poked that way. And don’t worry, baby, the fabric is in the right place.” Her voice reminded me of when she laughed, and she was smiling. But I couldn’t tell why.
I frowned. “But mommy,” I tried again, “it won’t look pretty this way.”
“Oh, sweetie, yes it will.” Her smile grew with my frown, and she reached over and wiggled my lower lip with her fingers. “What’s this, huh, little one?” She sounded like she usually did right before tickling me, but then her face changed and got serious. “Baby, does Mommy know what she’s doing?”
I thought about it, and then nodded.
“Can you wait a little bit until Mommy can show you?”
I thought again, and stopped frowning a little. “Uh-huh.” I grabbed the arm of her chair and pulled myself higher to watch. I still didn’t see how it could work. “But Mommy, I want to know now.”
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I smiled at my little girl’s curiosity as I finished pinning the two skirt-sections I would sew together next. She was always impatient to understand the hows and whys of everything. She wanted so badly to know what it all meant.
She stood on her tip-toes staring as I turned to my sewing machine and set the two pieces in place.
“Mommy, what does that do?” She asked and reached up toward the needle.
I grabbed for her hand. “Melody,” I said, giving her my warning look, “what has Mommy told you about her sewing machine?”
“Not to touch,” she replied, lowering her head..
“And why aren’t you supposed to touch?”
“Because I could get hurt,” she mumbled.
“That’s right.” I smiled to let her know I wasn’t angry. She brightened immediately, and I pulled her up onto my lap. “This is called a presser-foot,” I pointed to the part I had just moved, “and it helps Mommy keep the fabric moving the way she wants it. And while Mommy and the presser-foot are moving the fabric, Mommy will press the foot petal.” I pointed to the floor and held her so she could see under the desk, “The foot petal will make the needle,” I pulled her up and pointed again, “move up and down really, really fast and poke through the fabric. Every time it does that, it will pull thread through, and the thread will hold the pieces of fabric together so that it doesn’t need pins anymore. Do you see now?” She nodded enthusiastically. “Okay, I’m going to set you down, now, and you can watch me.”
“Okay,” she bounced off my lap onto the floor.
I turned back to the machine and started it. After a minute of removing pins and guiding fabric as the machine whirred, the seam was done. I pulled the piece away from the machine and clipped the remaining threads. Then I turned to my daughter.
“Now, remember how you wanted to know why the flowers were on the inside?”
She nodded vigorously.
“Here, see?” I took the newly-sewn section and pulled it open. “Now we have one piece that will be part of your skirt, and we won’t have this-” I turned the piece around and flipped the seam allowance back and forth “on the same side as your pretty flowers.”
She smiled radiantly and bounced. “Ooooooh! Do another! Do another! I wanna see again!”
Ahhh, my sweety… I thought. You’ll never get your dress at this rate. “Actually, baby,” I looked over at the clock. “It’s almost time for making dinner. Why don’t you go find Daddy and see if he’ll let you help make it while I keep working on your dress? I think he’s in his office.”
“Okay!” She nodded just as eagerly, then bounded away out the door. I imagined Mark getting tackled and dragged into the kitchen by Melody and grinned. In fairness, he had started the game first. But after that, Melody had become our entirely willing go-between in Dinner Tag. Grinning still, I turned back to my desk and began working again.
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Houses, houses, one after another. They slid across my computer screen: profiles, pictures, dimensions. I filtered through, trying to convince myself that maybe there’d be something worth looking over with Tracy later, but I couldn’t focus at all. Three weeks. We’ve only been looking for three weeks. Be reasonable, I told myself. But I couldn’t help the frown that tugged the corners of my mouth downward. Reasonable? What was reasonable? “Well, after all, it’s just a house,” a co-worker had offered ‘reasonably’ when I’d first mentioned the move at work. Just a house. Be reasonable.
But what about wanting to grow old with your wife in the house you returned to from your honeymoon? What about wanting to watch your little girl grow up in the rooms where she’d taken her first steps? To simply want to keep the place that had seen your family’s history – wasn’t that reasonable? I laughed wryly. What kind of “reason” could imagine replacing those things?
Lord, I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Why? I wouldn’t form the question further, but I couldn’t quell the depression that settled over me as, one after another, I surveyed the newest collections of colored pixels claiming that somehow, through the flat surface of my monitor, they could represent “homes.”
But no amount of color or claims couldn’t change the good – good – seven years’ difference that separated those “homes” and our home. Seven years, without even counting the Renovation Months. The place had been the classic “fixer-upper,” and Tracy and I had spent nearly every spare minute of our engagement nailing boards, washing windows, cleaning floors. Not that it was just the two of us – often as not, entity one set of our parents would be there, too, and sometimes both. Even now I had to smile at the races we’d have: Dad, Dad and “The Boy” – as Tracy’s parents called me – versus Tracy and the Moms. Given the right mood, we could still get a good rivalry going about who had let who win. I sighed, still scrolling, but no longer seeing the monitor. Together we’d done everything, from roof to carpet to plumbing to painting. In those months alone we’d made so many memories, and since then… we’d just spent so much time. “Remember the time…” was a game we could play endlessly in this place, though most would probably see it as small and very ordinary. Ordinary or not, though, the memories were something no other place we’d seen – in person, in pictures – could claim. Of course, to expect any differently would be impossible. Unreasonable.
Incomplete. It made everything another house could offer simply seem incomplete. Lord, why send us incompleteness?
I leaned back restlessly in my chair, at a loss. Then a clamor in the hallway broke through my thoughts. The next thing I knew, the clamor had materialized into Melody tugging at the arm of my swiveling office chair.
“Daddy!” my girl tugged enthusiastically at the arm of the chair, pulling first one way then the other, “Mommy said to find you. She said to ask if I can help make dinner. Can I, Daddy? I wanna help! Is it time?”
So much energy! I had to smile. How is it that you always take me by surprise? Looking at the clock, he nodded to his daughter. “Yep, it looks like it’s time. Come on, let’s go.”
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I couldn’t believe I was really standing here. Box in hand, I was actually facing our hallway – our gallery – ready to take the pictures down. Not that we were ready to move yet; we hadn’t even found a house. But time was passing, the time approaching, and I just couldn’t make it real. “I need to do something. I need to confront it,” I’d told Mark, and he’d understood. So I decided to start packing now, working on getting the extras, the things we wouldn’t really need between now and the move, into boxes.
And I’d begin here, in the hall.
In a way, everything was here. All of it, in pictures. Mark and I at our wedding. How crazy, I thought, taking the picture off the wall. I looked at us as we had been seven years ago. And we’ll be celebrating our eighth year together somewhere else, flitted through my mind. It was hard to believe.
Couldn’t we have stayed, Lord? Why couldn’t we passed all our years and gathered all our memories in one place?
I sighed, put the picture in the box, and moved on. The picture of us on our honeymoon, and a number from vacations. The picture I’d taken that even Mark had to admit had turned out beautifully, “I suppose,” as I’d heard him say dozens of times, “Even if it is of me hanging upside-down in the tree and wearing the silliest grin I’ve ever seen anywhere.” Inevitably he’d let a beat of silence pass, then he’d reach as though to take it down. “Y’know, why do we hang this one up again?” he’d always smile. I worked my way along the wall, and image after image of the two of us – hugging, kissing, laughing – passed from the wall to my hand to the box on the floor.
Then I reached the first picture of Melody. So tiny. Even then, I’d found those feet and hands unbelievable, but they seemed even more amazing now. You actually used to sit still, I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought. Nah, on second thought, that can’t be right. My Melody? I took down each of her four yearly pictures – infant, one year, two, three. I studied each for a moment before setting it in the box. Never did get this year’s up. Should probably get that now and put it with the others while I’m still thinking about it. I stood and headed toward the living room. We had gone to get the picture taken right around the time of Melody’s birthday, but that was now over a month ago, and it never had found its way from its “temporary” perch on the entryway bookshelf to the wall.
And I haven’t forgotten your dress, either, baby. I thought as I retrieved the photo and turned back. That, at least, I should have finished. But the month had been a busy one, with househunting consuming most of our evenings and weekends. And that had been draining, and I just hadn’t managed the time.
I continued with my task, working my way through the rest of Melody’s pictures. As many pictures as Mark and I had from the beginning years of our marriage, the hall was more Melody’s hall than anything. From one frame to the next, there she was. Playing dress-up in the living room in one of my old nightgowns. Grinning proudly over the marigold “she” had planted for me for Mother’s day in Sunday School, with Mark sitting next to her, holding the spade that had just dug it a place in our front garden. She flew like a bird through the front yard in Mark’s hands. She lay in her carrier in front of me, and later beamed over my head from my shoulders, in preparation for walks through the neighborhood. So many memories. I gazed at each, watching my baby growing up all over again, then set them one by one into the box.
Only a few scattered pictures remained: Melody with her grandparents, a couple with other family or close friends. Slowly I removed the remaining images and set them with the others. Then I straightened and looked around. It was so empty. A couple blank walls of empty nails. I couldn’t help but stare; the place was utterly changed. I had been there, I had changed it, but still the difference struck me. I dropped my eyes for a moment to the box of pictures on the floor, then lifted them to the hallway again. Those walls seemed so sudden, as though over the years I had forgotten their presence behind the pictures. After a few more moments, I knelt and picked up the box. I held it as I gave one more glance around the empty space. Somehow – I wasn’t even sure how – when I turned to leave, I was only leaving a hallway.
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I played with my fingers and tried to stay still as Mommy turned me to first to face her and then to face away from her, and then from one side to the other, pulling and pinching my dress in different places and poking pins through it. She’d said because of the pins, it was important not to move unless she told me. “Is it done, is my dress done?” I asked. All the pieces Mommy had cut were sticking together. That would mean it was all done and my dress now, wouldn’t it?
“No, not yet, baby. Mommy needs to sew the top and the skirt together, and she needs to finish the hem. Then it’ll be all done.”
“But why isn’t it done? It’s all fixed now, isn’t it?” I tugged at my skirt. It moved!
“Oh, no, Melody. Don’t do that!” Mommy turned me to the side where I had pulled. Positioning things and pinning all over again, she said, “You can’t pull on it yet, sweetie. It’s not sewn on. It just looks like it’s together because it’s got the pins to make it stay. Later Mommy will sew where the pins are holding. But for now she’s making sure it fits Melody just right.”
“Because that’s how you’re making it for me?”
“Yep, that’s right.”
I played with my fingers again, and finally she was ready to take the dress off.
“Be careful for the pins,” she warned me as she pulled up and I wiggled down. I only got poked once, and I was brave and just said, “Owie,” and didn’t cry. Mommy hugged me for that and said what a big girl I was growing into.
Then she said, “Okay, it’s time to sew together the last few parts, and then we’ll be all done.”
“And then can I wear it, Mommy? Can I wear it today?”
“Yes, as soon as I finish, you can wear it.”
“Yay!” I jumped where I was standing as she walked over her sewing machine, and then I followed her so I could stand and watch like I did before. She made the skirt go inside-out and cover up the top, and she stuck their ends both together under the pushing-foot and the needle.
“Later, Mommy, when you’re done, the edge part that flips back and forth will be inside and my flowers will be on the outside, right?”
She smiled big. “That’s right, sweetie. Good remembering!” And then she pushed with her foot on the petal underneath the table, and the machine went whhhiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrr and I watched the needle go lots and lots and lots of times up and down through my fabric, pulling thread through, too, and leaving it behind. Then, soon, she was done with that, and she turned the skirt back so that now it looked like a dress. And soon she was done with the little fold she had put on the bottom of my skirt that she called a “hem” and said was to keep the edge from turning into lots of little threads.
“There,” she turned from her sewing machine to me, pulling my dress with her. “All done. Are you ready to wear your dress, now?”
“Yes!” I shouted, jumping up and down and holding up my arms.
“Can you put it on all by yourself like a big girl?”
I nodded and took it. I put it on my head and pulled, and then wiggled my arms and head through until I could see again and my hands were free.
“Oh, sweetie,” Mommy put a hand up in front of her mouth, “you’ve still got your clothes on underneath, and it’s backward.”
“I know.” I couldn’t really tell what was wrong, but I didn’t care. It felt a little funny, but I didn’t want to change it. My big dress because I was four was done, and I had all my purple flowers around me. I twirled around and watched my skirt reach out and fly with my arms and me.
“Hey, Tracy,” it was Daddy’s voice coming from the hallway, “the realtor just called. She has a house she wants us to come-”
Daddy walked into the room, and I ran and jumped and caught his leg. “Look, Daddy, look! My dress is done!”
“Oh, wow! I can see that!” Daddy looked down at me, and I stepped back, put out my arms, and spun so he could see it more. “Did you put it on by yourself?”
“Yep!” I answered from the middle of my spin.
“I can tell!” His voice laughed, even though he didn’t..
Then he got more serious and said to Mommy, “Tracy, the realtor called with another house she’d like us to look at. She was wondering if we could meet her early so that we could get through a few places today.”
“Sure. This was all I needed to finish today. What time?”
“Well, we’d pretty much need to leave now.”
“Okay. Just let help this little one get her clothes fixed, and then I’ll be ready.” Looking at me, she said, “Melody, do you want to wear your clothes from this morning, or do you want to wear your new dress?”
“Ooooh, my dress! Can I? I can show Re-a-tor Beth!”
Mommy laughed, but nodded. “You sure can. Let’s go to your room, then, and get you changed.” She looked up at Daddy. “Once this is done, we’ll be ready to leave.”
I had to hop down to my room, because my legs wanted to bounce because I was happy. My dress was done! My dress was done! I hopped along in front of Mommy and played with my skirt as I went.
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Melody bounded up the steps of the house to the front porch. In minutes she was jumping up and down and twirling her new dress for the realtor lady. And, of course, chattering the entire time. Tracy and I reached the porch a few minutes later.
“Hello, Tracy, Mark. How are you two today?”
“Oh, doing well enough.” I replied. “How about yourself?”
“I’ve actually been having a very good day, thank you.” She paused and looked down at Melody. “So Tracy, Melody tells me you made her dress.”
“Yep. Just finished it.” Tracy grinned. “I’m sure you couldn’t tell that she was excited.”
“Well, of course. You never can tell with her.” Beth grinned back. “You did a very nice job.”
“So,” she turned to the door, pulled out a key, and unlocked it, “I called because I wanted you to have a look at this one. I think it’s something you may like. And after this, I have a couple others in the area I’d like to show you, just since we’re out.” She proceeded to lead us through the house, pointing out various features, and then she allowed us to explore for ourselves.
“What do you think?” Tracy asked me once we were somewhat on our own.
“Oh, it’s nice,” I replied. It was, really. It had a good amount of space, the rooms were seemed to be well-arranged, and there were more of them than in the old house. The kitchen and bathroom had been upgraded, too. There were a number of good things about it.
“Nice,” my wife repeated, some amusement in her tone. “Always one for the flattering reviews, aren’t you?” She punctuated her words with a hug.
“Well, you know, it isn’t…”
I trailed off, but she knew what I was going to say. “Yeah, I know – it’s not ours. But unfortunately-” her statement was cut off by the return of Melody, followed closely by Beth.
“Guess what! Guess what! I got to see it – there’s a tunnel that clothes crawl through from upstairs all the way down to the basement. I got to look at it ‘cause Re-a-tor Beth showed me, and she gave me a pen to drop, and now we have to go down to the basement to get it!”
“Is that so? And are Daddy and I supposed to come with you?”
“No!” she declared emphatically.
“No? And why not?” Tracy crouched down to look Melody in the face.
“‘Cause it’s a secret,” Melody’s voice dropped to her surprisingly – or perhaps unsurprisingly – loud whisper. “If you knew, then the clothes wouldn’t use it anymore.”
“Oh, is that so?” Tracy glanced up at the realtor curiously, but she was actually looking a little confused. The smile widened on Tracy’s face, and she nabbed Melody. “Is that so? Is it really?” She asked as she tickled our little girl. Melody squealed with laughter and, of course, tried to escape. Tracy just tickled more, and the two of them both fell together to the empty, carpeted floor.
I watched their play, then looked at Beth with a shrug and a smile. At last Tracy released Melody to run in the direction of the basement.
For a moment I could actually imagine us years down the road, Remember Melody’s story about the secret tunnel for clothes?
And I began to wonder whether, in the end, where we lived really did mean anything important.
This story was written for a creative writing class my senior year in college, and then further re-tooled for use in my senior thesis. Since the men in this story and an earlier college story, “Changing Hands,” shared the name Mark, I changed the names of the girls in the latter so the two could be considered different chapters in the same family’s life.