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Every morning around this time of the year, for about 4 weeks, I would wake up to the most beautiful smell: Pumpkin Marshmallow. The sweet-smelling aroma swiftly engulfed the cramped cabin where my family and I stayed during the Holidays. The scent was not overbearing, it provided just the right amount of warmth needed for those chilly November mornings! The sound of pots and pans raddling and clanking in the kitchen was just a little reminder that Thanksgiving was around the corner.
Mother loved Thanksgiving; it was the only time of the year that all the family came to town and enjoyed each other’s company. The holiday visit usually lasted about 2 weeks; once it ended everyone quickly returned to their busy, eventful lives in the big city! Everyone tried to stay in touch the first few weeks after Thanksgiving, but generally, that didn’t last! It would go back to just being Mother, Dad, and the twins after the Holidays. The twins are Lily and Kyle; my family adopted them when they were about 6 months old. They are actually blood cousins, but according to documentation and family bond, they are my younger siblings! In total Mother and Father shared 6 children: the Twins, Mark, Cassie, Paula, and Myself!
I usually came to town a few days early to help with the Thanksgiving preparations. The week leading up to Thanksgiving we were required to get everything in the house impeccable, as Mother and Father prepped the food. Mother wanted floors and walls scrubbed spotless, Fall decorations flowing throughout the house and the fireplace equips to burn chips of wood all week long. The house remained very busy and smelled delightful, between scented candles and home cooked greatness. As each day passed everyone’s excitement grew greater. The anticipation became almost unbearable the day before Thanksgiving Eve. This was also the day for the final touches on the menu and last minute cleaning sprees!
On the day before Thanksgiving, Family would start to arrive at all times of the day. Some would bring dishes of dessert and others would bring the liquid inspiration, not that anyone needed it. The men would gather in the den to watch sports while trying to smoke Cuban Cigars on the hush; Father would open windows hoping to air out the smell, but it never worked! Aunt Francis would bring Christmas sweaters that she was able to weave together on her own. She was very good at what she did, but those sweaters were not always appealing. Every year she would request a picture of everyone in their sweater, and it eventually became a Christmas card. Then there was Cousin Billy and Cousin Frank, they are brothers, and I believe my 2nd or 3rd cousins; they always seemed to have a “new date” or “new friend” every Thanksgiving. It’s like those two were allergic to settling down.
Each year it seemed like our family grew; everyone was branching out and starting families within our already large Family. The cabin was always so full of laughter and love these days. We all would sit and talk for hours about past memories and share outrageously embarrassing stories. Mother would always find a way to sneak in her photo albums; she mainly went for the same one every year. This photo album was outlined in the shiniest silver you would have ever seen & if it were tilted in the correct position the reflection of light would allow the pages to shimmer. It was a stunning album. The album contained baby photos of my siblings and me. Every year we created new traditions and even revisited old ones. Every year we argued, laughed till we cried and cried until we laughed.
It has been a long while since I experienced a Thanksgiving so full of joy. Once Father became sick the holidays became dull, and the laughter was no longer present.
He fought his battle as long as he could, but after 2 years of fighting, it was understandable that he was tired. Mother took his passing very hard; she began to give up on life herself; it seemed. The Twins moved out and off to college right before Fathers passing, so it was just Mother- alone. I asked Mother to stay with me because she didn’t need to be alone, but she felt closer to him at the cabin.
Days would go by before she returned any of my calls. Each time I talked to her, she sounded more lost than before. I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know if I could. She lost her life partner, the man she loved since the 8th grade. How could I possibly provide her with the right words and support to get her through this?
Each day grew harder; instead of healing, I felt my Mother was withering away. Eventually, she refused to leave the cabin at all. She refused to eat and take care of herself in any way. So I finally decided to move back with her. This decision shocked many of my friends; they didn’t understand why my older siblings did not volunteer to take care of our Mother. I tried to explain that everyone had children and families their own; to pick up everything and move thousands of miles would be unfair and unrealistic for them. However, it was just me. I lived alone. I dropped out of college shortly after my father was diagnosed. All I did was work a dead-end job and attend night clubs! I felt as if my life was going nowhere fast and I needed to be with my Mother! I needed to add purpose and substance to my life again.
I did not realize until I packed up and moved with my Mother that I was also still in pain. I had not completely come to terms with my Father departing this earth when he did. I ignored what I was feeling for a long time. That was no longer an option when I moved back to the cabin.
My mother had not left the cabin for many months; she felt closer to Father there, and I could understand that. We shared so many good memories in that place.
My 1st night back was uneasy; I heard my Fathers voice bouncing off the walls! I could feel his presence. I knew this was only my emotions and entirely in my head, but it felt so real! The smell of his cologne lingered through the cabin that night. I thought Mother may have sprayed it, so I walked down the hallway to her room. She was in a deep sleep. It looked as if the sleeping pills I gave her did the trick. As I looked around the room, I didn’t see any of Father’s belongings. It seemed like the room they shared and been wiped clean that he was ever there. I did not understand how Mother could get rid of all his things but still sulk in grief for his passing.
I grabbed for the handle on the door to exit my Mothers room, as I tried twisting the handle the door seemed jammed. I tried my best to wiggle it open as quietly as possible; I didn’t want to wake Mother. As I tried pulling the door handle for the 4th time I felt a cold chill down my spine; I spun around quickly and caught a glimpse of this dull grayish light. I shut my eyes rapidly; I kept telling myself I was tired and just needed to get some sleep. My gut was saying something different! I turned back to the jammed door and heard an unclear whisper. I could not make out what was said. I thought it was my mother so I called out to her, but there was no reply. I assumed she was talking in her sleep. As I redirect my attention back to the door, I heard that faint whisper again, but this time I can make out what was said.
“You cannot leave me! We are a family! I will never let you go!”
At that moment I understood why Mother would never leave this cabin.
He would not let her!
Michelle A. 11/23/15