The Welcome Home by Margaret Millmore
I drove slowly through the old neighborhood admiring the well tended bungalows and cottages that make up Elysium Park. It was the first day of summer; the skeletal tree branches of winter were now a luscious canopy of green. A gentle breeze whispered through the leaves allowing sunshine through in fits and starts. Flowers filled every yard and in many cases overflowed from window boxes. I pulled the car over, deciding to stroll awhile, inhaling the aromas of a successful spring growth. The comforting fragrances reminded me of years past, why did I ever leave I wondered.
The sound of music, laughter, and people talking floated through the air and I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I turned the corner and stopped abruptly, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a sight so wonderful I could only gape. The sidewalks were lined with tables covered with checkered cloths and loaded to the point of collapse with cakes, cookies, punch bowls and all sorts of other delightful treats. Lawn chairs and beach chairs were scattered throughout front yards and along the street, my neighbors all preparing for the stick ball game, kids against adults, the kids always won. Dogs sniffed at the BBQs laden with hamburgers, hotdogs and tinfoil wrapped corn on the cob. The annual neighborhood block party was in full swing and all my old friends and neighbors were there. As I inhaled deeply the most delicious memories and smells filled my head and my eyes filled with tears, oh how I missed them all so much.
A boy was quickly approaching, a baseball glove in one hand, the other hand waving spastically. He was smiling and calling my name and I recognized him immediately. It was little Edgar, his chestnut hair was still cut a little thick on top, but today it was neatly parted on the left and pasted down with gel. His Alfred E. Neuman smile and too large ears were the same as always and I could swear the boy hadn’t changed a bit. He stopped in front of me, a little breathless and said “why Mr. Jones, I can’t believe it’s you, thought we’d never see you again, come on” he smiled as he grabbed my hand and dragged me towards the party.
As Edgar pulled me through the crowd I smiled and waved at people I knew, there was Owen D. Bank standing next to Tara Tory and I wondered if they’d gotten together, or was Owen still too shy to ask her out?
|Melba and Burt Toast|
Melba and Burt Toast were ladling out glasses of homemade lemonade and Pat O. Butter was puckering her lips as she sipped the deliciously tart juice. Edgar didn’t let me linger though and I soon saw why, standing at a BBQ wearing a ‘kiss the chef’ apron was my closest friend when I lived in Elysium Park.
Bob Frapples stood motionless, the spatula suspended in his hand as he stared at me, a slow gentle smile filling his face. He laid the utensil down and came towards me, arms open to embrace me. We were like long lost brothers and more tears of joy fill my eyes as I returned the brotherly embrace. When we separated he said “well now Jonesy, it’s certainly a pleasure to see you again.” I had no response, how long had it been, I didn’t know, but one thing I did know, Bob hadn’t changed a bit either. He still had that youthful tan, his face free of wrinkles or worry lines, and not a speck of gray touched his perfectly coiffed brown hair.
After catching up with Bob, I headed over to the sidewalk to say hello to my old friends Hans Zoff and Bea Ware. They were seated snuggly on an iron garden bench, Hans wearing his signature brown velvet fedora, Bea with her head resting lightly on Hans’ shoulder.
|Hans Zoff and Bea Ware|
Hans smiled as I approached, his was a smile that started at his lips and crept up his face until it radiated from his eyes, it was infectious and I happily reciprocated. Bea smiled too, the glow of a woman still deeply in love lighting up her face. We talked, reminisced and after a bit I moved on to say hello to others.
I ran into Lucy N. DeSky, who was chatting with Hope Feterbest and May Bea Later.
|May Bea Later|
Then there was Betty Million who was complaining about something to Hammond Cheese and so many others whose names escape me but I smiled and said hello and was glad to see them all.
I left as the sun was beginning its slow decent, feeling happy and fulfilled for the first time in a long time. The goodbyes were sad but sweet and we all promised we’d see each other again soon. It was a long drive back to the city where I lived, but the sweet memories of the afternoon and smiling faces made the time fly by.
When I woke the next morning, I could still feel the warmth and happiness of the previous day, and I didn’t want it to end. I dug through my closet until I found an old photo album, the one from my days living in Elysium Park. Once I had it I sat on the bed and slowly turned the pages, smiling at each new picture, they all looked the same, no one had changed a bit.
On the last page I found a yellowed newspaper clipping from the Elysium Park Gazette, it was dated June 21, 1966. Small individual pictures of my friends and neighbors covered the first few rows, and the headline read ‘All but one perishes in neighborhood fire’. I looked down at my wasted, cancer ridden body, was it a dream or were they welcoming me home? I closed my eyes and took my last shallow breath; happily embracing what I knew would come next.