Heirlooms

Nothing in the house seemed to be of much value to anyone outside the family.  There was a model airplane in Hubert’s room that the boys all seemed to want.  A rubber alligator hung in the door frame of the middle bedroom, suspended by rubber bands.  Cherise realized both that she had never been conscious of it and it had been there for her entire life.  She asked her mother why it was there.

“Oh, I think Esther brought that home after a trip to Louisiana,” Darcy answered, as though that were an explanation all by itself.  Cherise hoped no one would move it.

They found a godawful metal Christmas tree in the middle bedroom closet.  It consisted of a central post about six feet tall, from which silver glittery poles radiated in sets of four, decreasing in length each level up, with each set being about a foot apart.  It had a little light machine you could set up next to it, and a motor to make it turn around slowly as the lights shown on it: red, blue, green, yellow.  Cherise was enchanted.  Her parents laughed, but that Christmas, when she arrived at their house, they had set it up as a surprise, with blue ornaments bravely attempting to fill the gaps between the make-believe branches.  After presents and dinner, they all sat around with full bellies and fuller hearts and listened to the tree creak.  Charles, who liked a real tree, told his daughter, “I told your mother we would set it up ONCE.”  On New Year’s Day, Darcy took the tree down, packed it up carefully and brought it back to the house.

Charles Junior had his eye on the Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen, the one Opal had made biscuits at every day of her married life.  He had a fancy 1920s  house he had decorated to period with a big kitchen in it.  Trouble was, that Hoosier cabinet was from the 1940s.

“The cabinet stays with the house,” Cherise said stubbornly.  She wanted to live in the house, she was the only one who wanted to live in the house, and she was convinced that if she wanted it badly enough, one day she would live in the house.  Walter would help her fix it up, she was sure of it.  Charles Junior didn’t respond.

Sally came to visit the house.  She and Darcy hadn’t been on good terms for years.  Cherise was sorry about that, as when she was a child, Sally had been her favorite aunt.  She wondered whether it had anything to do with the time when she was four years old, when Sally called Darcy to see if Cherise would be her flower girl, and Darcy asked Cherise, but she was in the bathtub and mad about it so she shouted, “NO!” and that was that.  Later she had wished she’d said yes and been able to ride in an airplane and wear a pretty dress and sprinkle petals before her beautiful aunt, but it was too late.  Surely Sally wouldn’t have held that against her mama for all these years, but you never know.  At any rate, Sally didn’t stop by to see Darcy, but she did visit Johnny and his family.  A few weeks after she’d gone back home, Cherise and Walter went to visit Johnny.

“Sally came down,” he told them.  Cherise nodded.

“She took that cabinet, what you call it?  Out of the kitchen.  She took that home with her,” he continued.  “Glen said her name was on the back; I never saw it, but he said it was.”

As Walter drove them home in the dark, Cherise texted Charles Junior:  “Sally took the Hoosier cabinet.”

“Bitch,” he texted back.

“Johnny said her name was on the back.  I wonder if Grandma wrote it there before or after Sally stopped speaking to her,” she replied.

“BITCH!” he texted back.  Cherise told Walter, and he grinned.

The next weekend, Cherise went back to visit her parents.  She and Darcy went to the house.  The ironing board was set up in the dining room, and fabric was strewn everywhere.  Someone had been sewing.  Darcy took a quick tour through the house.  She came out of the middle bedroom with a strange look on her face.

“That silver Christmas tree?  It’s gone,” she said.  She didn’t mention Sally; she didn’t have to.

“Bitch,” said Cherise.

****************************************************************************************************

Cherise and Walter went back to Darcy and Charles’ house for Thanksgiving.  In the middle of all of the ruckus of cousins and uncles and in-laws and outlaws, Darcy drew Cherise aside.  “I have to tell you something,” she said quietly.  “That Christmas tree?  I think I found it.”  Her eyes were twinkling.

Cherise had only a moment to wonder.

“I think it’s in my attic,” Darcy confessed.  The two women burst out laughing.  Darcy could have that tree if she wanted it, Cherise thought.  She’d earned the damned thing.

Later, over dinner, Glenn’s daughter Ashleigh announced out of the blue, “I would live in Grandma’s house.”  The room became very quiet.  “I would live in Grandma’s house as is,” she stressed.

Well, that’s it, Cherise thought.  She’s Glenn’s daughter, it’s Glenn’s house, of course he’s going to let her have it.  But no one said anything.

“I would live in Grandma’s house as is,” Ashleigh repeated, but she didn’t sound quite as confident.

Cherise decided to quash the idea before it took hold.  “I’ve been saying the same thing for a while, Ashleigh,” she called from across the room.  “No one will listen to me, either.”  She noted her cousin’s crestfallen look and suppressed a smile.  Dibs, she thought.  I got dibs.

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