Christine’s Story for Wednesday Stories 5/10/17
A Last Goodbye
James sighed, as he closed the door for the final time. It had been a hard day, both physically and emotionally. The house was empty now, the sale concluded and he knew that the new owners intended to completely renovate the house and gardens. He did not really mind that; the house was in need of some redecoration and the garden in need of more care but it was the end of an era.
His grandfather had bought the house new in 1938 when the land around had included woods and farmland. Now it was in the centre of the London suburbs, still in a nice area but a long way from farms although allotments backing on to the garden encouraged wildlife, including well fed foxes and squirrels, green woodpeckers with colourful plumage and bluetits nesting in the box nailed to the trellis, returning each year. The trellis was forlorn now. The roses so lovingly tended had been insufficient to keep the trellis from damage in the storms of ’87 and the morello cherry tree, the source of copious supplies of morello cherry wine and cherry jam, had died some years ago. By contrast, the copper birch his mother had tended from a sapling sprouting from a wind blown seed, stood strong, overshadowing the shed built to replace the one lost in the same storm of ’87. The old shed had an entrance to an air raid shelter built by his grandfather. Unlike the more popular Anderson shelter, this was underground and solid concrete with bunks for the twin girls, just 14 when war started. It had saved their lives more than once. He recalled his mother talking of the time his aunt had wanted to ignore the air-raid sirens but had given in to his mother’s urging. That night they had been alerted to a fire by the fire warden. A doodlebug had gone through the roof, landing in his aunt’s bed and setting it on fire. The warden had helped his grandfather push the smouldering mattress through the window and the following day the pond was full of blackened feathers.
They were all gone now, his grandparents, his mother and her twin sister, and now his father too. The house had been a major part of his life. His parents had moved into the house to look after his grandfather and strangely, seeing it empty now was a form of closure. He had his memories and a whole bunch of photos taken as he cleared the house. He walked down the steps and got into his car putting the box he was carrying on the seat next to him. His final mementos, the mantelpiece clock, loved by his grandfather and father alike. The blue alarm clock and teddy bear ornament from his old room, and a calendar of Westminster Bridge which had hung in the kitchen. He had never much cared for the picture but his father had liked it and it would always bring back memories.