A Short Story by David DeLane Snow
“No. Go watch Barney or SpongeBob on Netflix, honey. Mommy is still cleaning,” The young mother instructed her five year old daughter, Hope back into the living room. Candice Landmark had cleaned the girl’s room up two days before, and after having collected two large trash bags was surprised there was yet more to find. The people at Good Will knew her on a first name bases after such cleaning sprees as these, she smiled to herself.
“Mom I’m hungry.” Faith said at the doorway. The seven year old sister’s message had been lost on her younger sibling. Candice realized her older daughter had come to do her own job this time around as she sighed an, “Alright.” Tossing a one armed teddy bear onto the bed, wondering how it had been overlooked, Candice paraded the starving children to the dining table for milk and peanut butter sandwiches.
After cleaning up from the meal she redirected the girls to the living room to either do their own cleaning of misplaced toys or settle down to watch another round of shows as she finished up her own chores. The angles decided on cartoons instead of labor.
Picking up where she had left off, Candice resumed her cleaning spree by placing the arm-missing bear in the trash, and dove back into the closet. Seemed a Mom’s job was never done. She could not phantom how the room could be in such disarray in just a few days. Humming a church tune in her head she continued vacating the small room of every item in favor of a closer inspection and inventory; before reassigning them new shelf space and hangers. The venture always found the recovery of some lost item. This time was no different.
Just as she was about to return a pair of her youngest daughter’s Velcroed worn-tennis shoes beneath a lower cubby holed shelf in the closet, Candice felt the rattle within. “Oh my word what did Hope hide this time”, the young mom whispered aloud to herself? What she found and what it lead to she never saw coming.
Last time Candice had done a total house cleaning she had come across her husband’s stashed collection of cigarette butts. For some unknown reason Wayne kept all his “last cigarette butts” to commemorate his attempts at quitting. Then there was her youngest daughter’s collection of cat-hair balls kept in a sock! Candice was almost afraid to find out what the child had this time.
Timidly her slender fingers slid into the child’s shoe. Upon retrieving an old fashion key Candice found herself starring at it for the longest time trying to place where in the world it could have come from. Her perplexed thoughts instantly evaporated when the shocked answer came from the five year old herself.
Coming up beside her, Hope informed the bewildered adult, “Mommy that’s Nana’s key.”
“Okay baby.” A mixture of emotions waved over Candice as she realized the key belonged to the jewelry boxed from her own bedroom closet. A year before, her grandmother had passed away; the box and key were gifted to her from her mom. Candice had only briefly glanced inside the box the day after the funeral. Noticing the bobbles and costume trinkets of her beloved grandmother Lois Sakmir, the granddaughter locked it up without a second look. With the girl’s bedroom complete she thought maybe it was time to rediscover the heirlooms and see what childhood memories she could recall.
Going to her own walk-in closet to explore, her mind began to rehearse the day she last touched the jewelry box. Setting her older dresses aside for the second hand store, Candice then made her way deeper into the closet as her two daughters came in behind her. Atop a clear storage container sat the polished jewelry box. The scene of a traditionally dressed Japanese woman carrying a parasol, strolling past a Bonsai tree adorned the lid’s worn surface. Retrieving the small treasure chest all three girls made their way out again, then sat on the King size bed.
“It’s Nana’s box, right Mommy?” Hope sounded a little possessive.
“Well, it’s Mommy’s box now baby. Just like Marshall used to be Nana’s puppy, he’s ours now.” Candice informed her youngest daughter, who claimed their Scotty Terrier as her own.
Using the key again she opened the lid of the mahogany box revealing two smaller tasseled-lids rising up and exposing treasures galore. The girls marveled with Woos and Awes! One by one Candice pulled out each item and explained in great detail the back-stories of her legacy hoard.
“This one,” Candice said, holding up a Masonic Square and Compass inlaid gold ring, “belonged to your great grandfather, Buddy.”
“Did he love us mommy?” Faith asked.
“Of course he did Sweetie. Grand-paw just had a very hard life, honey.” Candice tried not looking sad over the comment as she pulled a freshwater pearl necklace from the wooden chest. “Can I wear it Mommy?” Faith begged.
“Sure you can.” Putting the heirloom delicately about the child’s neck; both beamed ear to ear. Moments later Hope was trotting about in over-sized shoes announcing, “I’m a Princess too, Sissy.”
About that time her husband entered the bedroom carrying a baby in his arms announcing, “Candice, Destiny is changed and Marshall did his business in the back yard. I’m heading out for a smoke.” After being placed in her carrier, her sister’s attention went back to playing dress up. As the dog jumped up onto the clothes laden bed the jewelry box tumbled with a crash.
“Oh no! Marshall! Go on, get out of here.” Candice yelled causing the nearly sleeping infant to burst into tears. The box was upside down. Though still intact, its mirror had popped out undamaged. The girls scrambled to assist their mother with returning the scattered necklaces, hair pins and broaches back into their rightful compartments.
Just as Candice was sitting back onto the bed unfolding a one page letter, Wayne came rushing in the room holding the terrier close in his arms, asking, “What’s all the commotion about Hon?” Faith was caressing the calming cheeks of her baby sister as her mother explained to dad the events with the box.
Candice added, “Then after Marshall almost broke it, this letter popped out from behind the mirror.”
“Really? What does it say?” Wayne inquired. Seeing everything was alright and that reading would calm his wife down, he tossed the silver hair dog back onto the bed. The terrier curled behind Candice apologetically and sat in silence as she began enunciating aloud.
“Rachel took me to the doctor’s appointment last week. I’ve been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I’m so scared to death. I fought so hard in my life to be memorable, and now I’m going to forget everything myself, so many cherished memories. Where do you start dismantling your life? They’ve all made me who I am, who I was. I love my grand babies so much, and the joy they’ve become for Candice and Wayne. Charlene and Randel with their Ski Lodge business is just amazing. Diane and Scott both become doctors – I’m so very proud of how things turned out for all my children.
I was thrilled that Buddy and I were able to make such a wonderful life together. I was so devastated when the Chaplain came to the house and told me Buddy had been killed in Vietnam. My world collapsed and everything changed.
I had three little girls relying on me and I felt all alone. Had it not been for Marshal Evans I never would have been able to keep my sanity. Marshal was more than just a deacon in the church he was a great friend and after a while we became more than that. After a few months we became lovers and life was great again until the day he asked me to marry him. It was eighteen months later to the very day the Army officials informed me that Buddy had not been killed but had been a POW instead. He was released and coming home. It was an amazing roller coaster ride.
Buddy and I continued as before. He was changed by the war and we fell apart because of it. Yet for the girls we stayed together even with his heavy drinking. Marshall was there and he always comforted me and knew the right things to say and do. Buddy either never knew or cared that Marshall and I were close; he seemed so distant – off fighting his own Vietnam demons. Buddy never let anyone get close and he always shut others out who tried.
Me? Now it seems even my secret life is to be ripped away and forgotten.”
As she finished reading the letter, Candice’s mouth dropped. Her wide eyes locked onto those of her husband’s own. Wayne blurted out, “Wow! Least we know now where your grandmother got the name for all her dogs.