Love Letters(12)

By: Geraldine Solon

She went inside the master bedroom and sat on the bed. The room still looked the same as when her father was alive. She entered the walk-in closet, now empty, but remembered how she would stay there for hours looking at her mom’s new clothes. She walked over to the dresser and picked up a picture frame. It was a family photo of the three of them in Disneyland, her favorite memory. She was just five at the time the photo was taken.

That was the last time they’d had real fun together. Her mother had always seemed so angry, so distant. Chloe had longed for that closeness again. In her heart, she knew that her parents had never really loved each other, but she’d never understood why. She put the frame close to her heart and wept. Mom is right. There are too many memories in this house.

There were two other smaller rooms, one beside her room, the other beside her parents, which she used as a home office. After John died, Jill, Suzanne’s friend convinced Chloe’s mother to move to a smaller home in San Rafael, where she met many new retirees. At sixty, Suzanne exuded youthful energy that astonished Chloe.

Maybe it’s time I move and start a new life, build new memories with Richard.

After breakfast, Chloe spent the entire day cleaning her house, separating the garbage from the donations, and keeping the rest. Chloe smiled when she found a huge stash of her exams in a file drawer in the office.

Why would Mom keep all my test papers from first grade? She had even kept old receipts and bank statements. They’re ancient. Next, Chloe found old photos, her yearbook and her tennis racket.

She felt filthy after cleaning the four rooms, but had yet to clean the attic. She knew the attic contained most of her parents’ belongings, so she took a break. While taking a bite of Hershey’s chocolate – one of her weaknesses – she turned on the TV to catch up on “Law and Order.” After her show was over, she climbed the stairs to the attic and scanned the dark interior before turning on the one bare bulb.

When she was younger, she’d always had the impression that the attic was so much bigger than it was now. She often hid there when her mom was angry. She could still hear her yelling, “Chloe, get down here this minute.” If the walls of this house could talk, they would speak volumes.

She went to the kitchen to get some paper towels soaked in water. The attic was filthy and filled with boxes. One box was crammed with Christmas decorations. Another box held old children’s books. Other boxes contained family albums, old receipts and old clothing.

“Definitely trash,” she said to the box of receipts.

More boxes contained trash, and again Chloe segregated everything. She yawned, not caring if she was up all night. She couldn’t begin a task without finishing it. By 2:00 in the morning, Chloe rubbed her eyes. One more box. Chloe sneezed several times upon opening the box. Inside old toys and baby clothes lay in a neat pile. A rush of tears filled her eyes and spilled down her face.

Mom is right; there are too many memories here. She fingered her old Monopoly and Scrabble games that she used to play with her dad. Now they were dusty and faded with age. So many things reminded her of Dad. She wished he was here right now. Chloe set the games aside, then removed all the stuff inside the box, and dusted them individually, including her old Sesame Street toys, which she loved playing with as a child. Just when she thought she had emptied the box, she caught sight of a big brown envelope at the very bottom.

As Chloe reached for the envelope, she sneezed twice. In her mother’s familiar writing were the words Suzanne Rogers and the date 1968. She opened the envelope, and saw a stack of folded stationary wrapped in a rubber band. Chloe yawned one more time and was about to put them into the box, but instead decided to take them with her downstairs.

Probably Dad’s letters to Mom. She stuffed the letters into her dresser drawer in her bedroom, and then went to bed.

Morning came too soon. The buzzer from her alarm clock heralded nine o’clock. Still groggy from the night before, she stumbled into the shower and got ready for the day. She was scheduled to meet with the wedding photographer after lunch, and then a band called “Wanted.” Finally, she would meet Nicole for an afternoon snack.