When I was a young girl, I must’ve been about five or six, I would always be outside running around playing. Mama hardly ever knew where I got off too. She said I would be gone for hours while she looked after my little sister. But I remember.
Down the dirt road we lived off of, around a bend and hidden back in some woods was a most beautiful old white country style home. It had a glorious wrap around porch and two white swings. Every day in the summer I would ride my pink bike or walk along the dirt road and through the woods to that magical house. And there it would sit waiting, smiling at me with its two white windows on the second floor and its smiling porch.
I wasn’t even looking for it, when I first found it, I was looking for my kitten in the woods. I thought I had slipped off into another world when I came upon it the first time. You see for the majority of my life I lived in run down homes on dirt roads. So to see such a charming beautiful home was unreal to me. For a long time, I just stood there in the woods staring at it. I had forgotten all about my kitten. The home to me felt safe and very inviting. I almost started to cry, because the home represented something at the time I thought could never be.
Then as if she saw me, a little old lady with white hair twisted on top of her head came to the screened porch door. She wore a white dress and white slippers, I couldn’t see her face. Frightened that she would yell at me for being on her property I ran for it. I thought surely the woman would seek out the little no good trespassing girl, but she never did.
The home was my secret and it haunted me, but in a good way. It seemed to call to me, asking for me to come back just for a visit. And so a couple days later I did.
I thought for sure the home would be gone, that there was no way it could have been real. I told myself I must have dreamt it, but how could that be my kitty was still missing. I had been searching for a long while and was about to turn back, my feet hurt and I had some scratches and scrapes from the thorny vines. It didn’t help that I was hungry. Which didn’t matter because, the only food at home was a can of tomato soup and some bread for grilled cheese sandwiches, for supper. But then I found it, again.
It was real, at least to me, still sitting smiling. This time though the old lady was slowly rocking on one of the porch swings. She waved to me, the left side of her lips were raised slightly in a smirk. I decided to ask if she had seen my kitty. She never moved as I walked closer and closer to her house. Once I was a couple yards away I realized the dirty tattered state of my clothes, scabby knees, and unwashed hair. Would she see, would she care? I became very self-conscious and tried to smooth back my long hair and dust the dirt off of me. The old lady only smiled, then she said, “children are supposed to be dirty child, it means you are learning don’t try to hide that.”
Taking courage from her words I covered the rest of the distance quickly. Finding myself on the porch steps surprised me, they creaked as I took them one by one. “I…” blue greenI couldn’t seem to finish speaking now that I saw her up close. She looked so beautiful, her hair was shiny like silk, and her skin looked soft with many laugh lines around her mouth and eyes as well as wrinkles on her forehead. “Yes I am old but don’t worry dear child, I mean you no harm.”
I took comfort in her words, her voice was like an old sweet southern bell. “I lost my kitty, he’s black with green eyes. Have you seen him?” My voice shook, I was always expecting some sort of backlash. I noticed then that her eyes were grayish and blue-green like my own, and they were filled with tears as she shook her head. “No dear one, I have not seen any kittens around here. I did see an older golden retriever though, was he yours?” I thought of Fritz a dog my mom had somehow come by. He was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen, he was a golden retriever but had curly fur at the end of his feet and paws. He was a shot a couple of weeks after we got him, or so my mom said. Either way I never saw him again. “No, ma’am, my dog died. If you do see my kitten, I live up the road…” The words fell away, there was nothing she could do if she did see my kitty.
She nodded slowly, blinking she wiped away her tears. I felt sorry for her and wished I had a tissue to hand her. “You live in that dark blue house up the way, did that old shed finally fall down?” she asked. I nodded yes remembering the sound it made when it fell. First it creaked as a hard wind blew and then it fell with a loud crashing sound like thunder. “I thought I had heard it. Would you mind helping me with something?”
I grew nervous, anytime anyone asked for my help it never ended well. I was always very good as making things worse. Or so I was told. Not wanting to seem rude I nodded, nervously pressing my lips together. The old lady rose slowly from the swing, I put my hand on it to steady it. “Oh yes please do sit down.” She said with a brief smile. Again I did, so I would not appear rude, mama would be very mad if I was. “Ill be back in just a minute.” She said and I watched her walk inside her white slippers sliding across the wood, the screen door opened and closed without a noise.
Amazed to be sitting on the porch of the most beautiful home I had ever seen I took it all in. The swing swung silently which was a big comfort to me. I noticed there were two fans one over each swing, both spun around lazily giving off a warm comforting breeze. The porch itself was painted a light grey color and the railing on the porch had the most beautiful post with fine details of white vines and flowers climbing up and around them.
A floor board creaking was the only warning I got and I jumped up sending the swing crashing back into the railing. I had only wanted to get the door for her, and instead I put a dent into her fence. My heart pounded as I panicked, she was going to yell at me now for sure.
“Don’t worry dear, you are not the first nor the last, and it is a strong railing it’s been through worse.” She said this with a soft smile while bumping the screen door open with her hip. Her hands were full with a tray holding two glasses of pink lemonade and a sleeve of graham crackers, the original not cinnamon. “Pull that TV stand out, there next to the swing and you can help me with my afternoon snack.” She gave me a warm smile and I did as she asked. With the TV tray set up and the snacks set down the old lady sat down on the swing and gestured for me to join her. She handed me a glass and sipped her own smacking her lips appreciatively.
I couldn’t help but giggle, it was silly that she did something I always got in trouble for. I saw her smile, then my stomach growled. “Those crackers won’t eat themselves.” She said, her brow raised before setting her glass down and prying the sleeve open. She handed me one and I was about to take it when I remember my dirty hands. “No thank you…” I said softly before wrapping my hands around my glass to hide them, then sipped my lemonade again.
“Now what did my maw maw used to say to me? Oh I know, god made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. Dirt is kind of mandatory of a young child’s nutritional diet.” Again she smiled and I found it was contagious because after that I couldn’t stop smiling. We sat in silence smiling and eating until all the crackers and lemonade were gone.
Then I heard her, mama was calling. I saw the old woman frown for the first time in our visit. My heart pounded as I heard her calling again. “Thank you for the crackers and lemonade ma’am. Is there anything I can do to repay you?” I said quickly knowing if I didn’t holler back or start running now I was going to be in for it.
She gave me a strained smile, “yes child there is, come back and join me for my snack again?”
I smiled briefly and nodded before running through the woods and back up the dirt road, praying mama wasn’t too mad.
“And the little girl kept coming back every day for the entire summer months. I couldn’t do much for her, the only thing I could do was give her a brief time of relief. If you’ll excuse me I think I hear her skipping up the steps…” Said the old lady whose long white hair was worn down now as she held a tray of graham crackers and two glasses of pink lemonade. Sure enough a little girl with bright blonde hair, dirty hands, scabby knees and grey bluish green eyes could be seen through the screen quickly skipping up the steps.
But what you don’t know or don’t see is the tragedy. Because the old lady wasn’t real, she was just a day dream concocted by the little girl the day she lost her kitty, to escape the fear of what waited for her back at home.