Such a sad day. It’s always difficult when a loved one dies, but packing up their personal effects is heart rendering. My mother and I were in my grandfather’s home, cleaning out drawers, cupboards, all of his belongings. I held a box of his clothes on my lap, and on top was his favorite pipe. It was made of cherry and permeated the house. Even now, after he was gone, the aroma was still there, whether real or imaginary. Salty tears fell down my face.
I went to Grandpa's kitchen and looked at the old Ben Franklin stove. Wonder how long that had been there. Looked like the original. But it was part of Grandpa's charm. He loved old things.
“Mary, what on earth are you doing?”
“Just wandering around, Ma.”
“Well, get back to work, I can’t do this by myself and we have a lot more before we’re finished”.
Oh, well, time to leave and see what else there was. I stopped at the cellar door and thought we should empty that too. I tried the knob, but it was locked.
It could have been stuck, this was an old house. I pulled and pulled until my hand hurt. I found a knife and finally pried it open. I grabbed the flashlight near the door. When I opened the door, there was a stench I couldn’t believe! Did I want to go down there? There were cobwebs everywhere. When was the last time someone was here, and why was the door locked? I thought about turning back. But my curiosity was peaked. I gingerly went down the cellar. The stairs were almost vertical. As I stepped on each one, it creaked as though it were crying in pain. I finally made it to the bottom, and began looking around. It looked like a monument to the civil war! I found an old confederate soldier suit, badly faded and worn. I dared to pick it up. It was disgusting. I dropped it like it was on fire. There was also a confederate flag lying on the floor in pieces. This place was eerie, no wonder the door was locked! What other secrets did this place hold? I took one step at a time, carefully using my flashlight for any other surprises. Oh, what was this, a little square in the floor? Somehow it didn’t look right, as thought it had been added on. I touched it, and it gave way. Before I knew it I had fallen into some sort of trap door. It was made of cement, and I skinned my knee on the way to my prison.
I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“Mom, Mom, come get me out!!
I was so scared and confused. I sat down like a little child, put my arms around my legs and rocked. I began to weep and continued to yell for my mother. The stench from the mold was making me ill. Mom thought the cellar was locked, would she even think to look here? Hours went by as I lay with my hands stretched out in back of me while I looked at my skinned knee. It was starting to bleed. Damn it, where was she! I was cold, thirsty and hungry. I also had to use the rest room. I had been there so long; fatigue overtook me. I lay on my stone pillow and dozed off.
Suddenly I awoke when I heard rustling noises.
“Mom, Mom, I’m down here!”
“Mary, are you down here?”
“Yes, Mom, yes, over here!”
Than it occurred to me she probably couldn’t hear me. Then I looked at the flashlight I held in my hands. I stood up and reached with it as far as I could. Not long enough, but I could pound on the walls.
I heard steps coming towards me. Finally, I would be rescued. Mom opened the door, gave me her hand and pulled me out of my potential grave.
“Are you okay, hon?”
“Yes, Mom, but I was so scared…I didn’t know what to do.”
“We’ll talk when we get upstairs.”
That’s when she lit into me as though I were a naughty child.
“That door was locked for a reason, how’d you get in there?”
“I jimmied the lock, I thought more of Grandpa’s things would…
“Don’t you ever tell anyone what you saw down there!”
“But Mom, what was all that…?
“Mind your own business, and listen to what I tell you, some things are better left alone!”
I was angry now.
“I’m a part of this family, and I think I deserve to know what…"
“You deserve nothing! Keep your mouth shut about this, I’m warning you!
She finally calmed down and said,
“C’mon, let’s get out of here, your uncles are going to move the furniture, I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day”
We went to the car and loaded Grandpa’s things in the trunk. I got on the driver’s side, Mom on the other. The silence was deafening, when I just had to ask:
“Mom, it’s dangerous down there, I almost died. What happened?’
“Well, you didn’t die, so quit worrying about it. For the life of me, I can’t figure you out. Why would you open a locked cellar door, it was locked for a reason! And as for what happened, it’s ancient history, let it go and forget about it! You’re better off not knowing; believe me.”
I dropped Mom off at her house. It seemed to slip her mind that I had a term paper due for my Anthropology class. It was titled, “Old houses, and the secrets they hold.” Oh, this was gonna be a good one! Forget? I think not Mother dear. I’ll find out what’s going on if it kills me. And with Mom’s ballistic reaction, it just might.
To be continued....
Mary E. Lacey