Chris apprehensively climbed up the shaky stairs of the house he grew up in after many years. Their loud creak under his weight went unnoticed by him for his attention was suddenly focussed elsewhere. His eyes caught a glimpse of the place where the nameplate used to be and, unknowingly, he felt a stab in his heart. Had he lost everything he was entitled to?
He pushed the unlocked rusty door open and, along with the thick whiff of dust, felt his entire childhood envelope him. Everything was in its place, but a dead stillness prevailed. “I should’ve been here sooner.” he said out loud, evidently with a pang of guilt. Yes, he had achieved what he had set out to, but was everything lost along the way?
He clearly remembered the leather armchair where his mother had sat when he went to bid her adieu, years ago. He wanted to leave the boring, unpredictable life of this small town and soar high to fulfill his dream of becoming an architect. His mother, alone and protective, wished he found a dream closer home. They argued and sparred, until one day he packed his bags and left.
He hadn’t once looked back after that. His calls to his mother, long and frequent at first, had reduced and then stopped altogether. She often complained about her deteriorating health and begged him to visit her but he always had something else to do. The call from their local priest few days ago was the jolt he hadn’t prepared himself for. His mother was gone.
He completed her last rites impassively. Someone had shown interest in buying their old traditional timber home. He too felt no need to hold on to it anymore. His final trip to his house was to collect any personal items his mother might’ve left behind. Although, truthfully, he wasn’t sure what he would do with them. Wouldn’t it be better to just give them away too?
A purposeful walk through the house brought him face-to-face with a tiny closet he never knew existed behind the curtains in his mother’s room. “Has it always been there? How come I never saw it?” he wondered. He pushed it open to have a closer look and what he saw brought a catch in his throat.
There were rows of shelves covering half the height of the walls carrying his old toys, clothes and several building structures he made as a child. The cast from when he had his hand fractured lay next to them. He smiled seeing his mother’s ‘World’s best son’ scrawled over it. His old cycle, his favourite toy casio, his beach set, even his old ragged shoes, it was all there, neatly kept and maintained. It was like a peek into his past.
On the opposite wall were numerous pictures of them together, from vacations, his birthday parties and even in their backyard. There were cut-outs from newspapers and magazines of the buildings he had designed, his interviews and his pictures. Here too there were lines like ‘So proud of you’ ‘Looking handsome’ ‘I knew you would do it’ scribbled across them in his mother’s unique handwriting.
He didn’t realise when tears started rolling down his stubbled cheeks. She had managed to keep a part of him with her even though he thought he had left. Could he ever get his lost part back or even dare ask for it? He picked up the cast, scribbled something on it and kept it back carefully. Nothing in the world could describe him better. ‘World’s best mom’s son’ was what defined him and he wished he had known it sooner.