Graham Crackers with Frosting

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The crisp autumn leaves crunch and crinkle under my feet. There is the musky scent of fall in the air, with beams of sunlight breaking through the changing trees. I have made this walk so many times; I know every crack in the sidewalk, every dog in the yard. My walk home from school is always my time of the day for me to just take a deep breath and think to myself. Since I was eight, I have enjoyed this five block walk home. When I was in middle school, my neighbor, Mrs. MacCathy, would let me come over for a snack every day once I got home. Sometimes it would be graham crackers with frosting, sometimes apples with caramel, sometimes chocolate chip cookies with a large glass of milk. But my favorite by far would be when she would bake a fresh apple pie. I could smell it as I walked down the street. The scrumptious tendrils of scent drifted to the whole neighborhood, enticing everyone around. I could smell the crisp crust, the sweet apples, the spicy cinnamon. These were the days when my parents not being home to greet me hurt the least.
For as long as I can remember, my parents have been busy doing one thing or another. My mother works hard to keep up our family’s appearance. Don’t get me wrong though, looks can be deceiving. She is President of the parent organization at my school. She volunteers at the local food shelter and donates to the Cancer Society every year. Along with all of this, she keeps her Fortune 500 job and “raises” a family. My father is a big time lawyer who defends the wrongly accused and innocents who may be otherwise charged guilty. He works long hours and sometimes sleeps at the office. They have multiple benefit dinners a week and are rarely home at night to see me off to bed.
I make the long journey up the dark stairs all alone every night, winding my way through the huge, vacant house. My room is on the far side, past all the remains of my parents past. There is the portrait of the Eiffel Tower lording over the first landing at the top of the steps. The Greek sculpture they picked up on their travels through Europe when I was only three years old haunts the hall sending inhuman shadows stretching from ceiling to floor. On the floor lays the oriental carpet my mother spent way too much money on when she went to her distant acquaintance’s destination a few years back. The material feels worn down on my feet, due to the consistent path I walk every night, in contest of my mother’s orders.
Finally, I make it down to the comforts of my bedroom, only to be reminded of how alone it feels in my own domain. My overstuffed canopy bed rests in the middle of my room. The bed coverings are all white, to coincide with the plain, monochromatic walls. Once, when I was young, I begged and begged my parents to allow me to paint them a deep, bright purple. That hope was short-lived however, because my parents shot down that idea before I could even dream of picking up the paint. Over in the corner of the room rests a lonely rocking chair that seems to memorialize my childhood. Unlike most rocking chairs in young children’s rooms across the country, my chair still looks as pristine as the first day it was bought. There was no late night rocking when I was small, no middle-of-the-night cuddles when I woke up with a bad dream, worrying about the monsters that were hiding beneath my bed.
Tonight my parents were off at a “Save the Whales” benefit dinner. Either that or they were at the Golf Club, the place where all the rich parents would go when they had no social event, but still couldn’t stand spending too much time at home with their families. Their absence had no effect on me, however, and I came into the house just as I did any other day, through the side door the maids use. I threw my backpack on the old Victorian chair that sits in the hallway and headed to the den for some TV. I spend some time flipping through all the channels on cable. All I could find were the peppy shows that you watched when you were little and the boring shoes you watch when your old like Meet the Press and Paid Programming. I decided to mosey on over to Mrs. MacCathy’s house to see if maybe I could at least have someone to talk to, even if she didn’t have any snacks for me today.
The path between the houses was always very well kept. There were stones lain down in a cobblestone pattern, and the grounds keeper always made sure there were no weeds or grass growing in the cracks. The fence in between our houses is the old-style wooden picket that is not actually very old at all. When I was young my mother had an exterior designer come and put up a fence that she described as “homely”. The designer had pickets sent in especially for my mother’s fence. They were painted white, just like every American’s dream fence. It had the two horizontal planks that joined the pickets together. Every 50 or so feet my mother had flower boxes installed so it would create the “right” atmosphere she was going for. As a child, I loved the fence. It made me feel like every other child I saw on TV. It made me feel like my life was just as normal as everyone else’s. Now I see the fence for what it really is; a way to hide our problems from the rest of the world. A façade to make us seem like every other ordinary family in the country.
As I arrive at Mrs. MacCathy’s house, I find the door is unlocked, so I just walk in, knowing that I am never unwelcome in the home I spent more time growing up in than my own house. I yell, “Mrs. MacCathy! Hello?” but there is no answer. I stop in my tracks as I enter the living room. I can’t believe my eyes. There on the floor is my best friend; the woman who cared for me and nurtured me as if I were her own child. As I kneel down next to her unmoving body a sense of dread floods through me. I feel no pulse and know that there is no hope left for my beloved Mrs. MacCathy. Despite this, I call 9-1-1 and tell them to rush over immediately.
As I head home once all the medical teams clear out, I still can’t believe what has happened. How one person can be so alive and vivacious one day, and have a heart attack the next just baffles me. I’ve never had anyone this close to me die,certainly not the most important person in my young, teenage life. I feel empty inside. My house is still as silent as I left it, except now it seems almost foreboding. I want my parents to be home. To be there, to wrap me up in hugs, and to tell me everything is going to be alright. But I know that this is just a hopeless dream. My parents won’t be back until late, and even then they will have no idea what has happened, let alone how the catastrophic event of today may have affected me. Instead, I just crawl into my lonely bed and wish for dreams to take me, even if it is just for these few hours. This, however, is also a hopeless dream. I toss and turn for hours, the images of earlier replaying in my mind. Finding Mrs. MacCathy, the EMTs pronouncing the official time of death, coming back to my house to find it empty.
As it nears midnight, I wish I could feel something. Fear, sadness, even anger, at the world for taking away my best friend, my parents for never being there when I need them most. But there is nothing. My emotions are an empty, bottomless abyss. I decide to cross the hall to get a glass of water, hoping that it will refresh me and calm me down enough to catch a few hours of sleep before I must get up tomorrow morning. The hallway is cool and tranquil. A light from the yard looms ominously through the window at the end of the hall. As I pad along the tile in the bathroom to the sink, I hear the front door open and my parents finally arrive home after their evening out. I don’t expect them to come upstairs and check on me, so I just go along with my business, getting my drink, then heading back to my bedroom.
Once I curl back up in bed, the restlessness that has presided in my body is finally starting to subdue. It is then that the most unexpected thing happens. I hear the faint creaking of stairs from sound tired feet make as they try to slink as quietly as possible. I feign sleep as they peer through the crack of the door, checking to see if I’m awake. I wonder what is happening as they make their way over to my bed. The next moment is so filled with love that I am completely happy for the first time in many years. My mom, who had never hugged me even when I scrapped my knee when I fell off my bike in 1st grade, reached down to kiss my forehead. In this small moment, I know, deep down somewhere inside me, that everything is going to be okay. My parents might not be there for me all the time, but I will always be their little girl. And they will always be there for me in my rough times, even if it’s not in the stereotypical way of all the other parents of my classmates. Though many parents may have rushed home the moment they heard our neighbor passed away, my parents have never been the type to baby my emotions. Our non-generic family may not show love through physical contact and expression of our love through words, but that doesn’t mean that it is of any less strength then every other family on the street. As my parents leave the room, my dad pats my hand, and my happy blissful heart carries me off into a deep sleep, ridding my body of all the tribulations of the day.





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