Ellen Ashe is visiting us today and sharing her 'true-ish' story...
It’s odd sometimes how a seemingly normal incident, in hindsight, can leave a chill. So it was, one pleasant May evening, many years ago. During the week between the dirty slush and the arrival of black flies, it was delight to be outside, cleaning up a yard littered with leaves and twigs. The old apple trees had withstood another year of winter’s abusive wind and I marveled at the strength of an aged orchard. So busy picking up the scattered sticks I didn’t hear the car drive up.
“Spring at last,” the visitor said, announcing himself. So startled at the sound of his voice I dropped my small bundle and turned.
“Yes, spring at last,” I repeated, not knowing what else to say as my shock was sudden.
The elderly gentleman smiled warmly, dispelling my wariness, and handed me a photograph. Small, torn around the edges, the black and white photo was of a dapper young man standing beside a car- obviously his pride and joy- a Model-T Ford. “Is this you?”
“Yes,” he answered, hinting sadness behind his smile. The freshness of youth was long past. “And that picture was taken right there.” He pointed to the driveway, and I hastily glanced between the two, comparing the scenes. The garage, built forty years ago, was not in the photograph. Nor were the shrubs, and the Maple Tress at the yard’s edge were merely spindly sprouts.
“This wasn’t yesterday.”
“No,” he said with a soft chuckle. “It was taken in 1923.”
I was flushed with thoughts of history. Many a time I had listened to stories of families who had lived in the house before my own, but the kind gentleman before me brought those stories to life.
“I was born here,” he went on, a touch a melancholy in his voice. Watery blue eyes drifted to an upstairs window. “After my parents died I moved away.”
“When was that?”
“1951.” And he went on to tell me the names of families who lived along the road, many of whom I too, remembered from when I was a child.
“Would you like to go inside, have a look around?” I imagined much would be the same and that he might enjoy meeting my family.
“Oh, no,” he said, as though his being there would be an inconvenience. “I just wanted to take a little walk around. If it’s no trouble,” he added hastily.
He tipped his hat and thanked me for permission granted.
As he meandered towards the back field I was overcome with emotion. I wondered where the years might take me, and if some day I also, might return to visit the old house where I was raised, with a photograph in hand and a heart filled with memory.
Then, proud to be privy to the information he had given me, I dashed inside to show my mother the picture he had left with me. “We have a visitor,” I said, grinning broadly to mystery about to be revealed. Yet it suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t even asked the gentleman’s name.
“Really? Who?” She glanced to the door, expecting me to be followed.
I presented her with the picture and grew troubled when her brow furrowed and her cheeks paled. “What’s wrong?”
She didn’t answer. Instead she rushed outside and I quickly followed, wondering what had gone amiss.
He was no where to be found, which confused me, seeing he had only since began his stroll. The car I hadn’t heard arrive had vanished as well. “He said he lived here but I forgot to ask his name,” I confessed.
She handed the picture back to me. “Someone has played a trick on you.”
Incensed, I demanded to know why she had come to such a conclusion.
“It’s true, this man lived here but he died ten years ago.”
No trick, of this I was convinced. But I kept such privy to myself, despite the chill of an incident far from normal.
I never forgot the warm spring evening in May, under the apple trees, and I had hoped with each following season he might return, once more, to a place as dear to his heart as mine. But he never did.
Except for the photograph, the visitor, as the years, is gone.
Visit Ellen Ashe at www.ellenashe.net & http://ellenashe.blogspot.com/