The room in which they had just entered wasn’t large, maybe 12 by 16 feet.
In the middle of the outer wall there was a fireplace, though not used in a long time. He could tell that there had been a rug in the middle of the floor because the wood there did not look nearly as worn as that around it. All around the rest of the room were built-in bookcases. The shelves were empty save for a thick collection of dust and who knows what else. Eula’s eyes seemed to fix on the far corner of the room. “What now?” he thought to himself.
“I know this might sound a little morbid,” she began, “but a lot of living and dying happened in this room.”
The minister was now convinced that this was indeed a set up. But he’d let it play out. Yet he had not anticipated what she said next.
“I was born in this room,” she said, “right over there in that corner on a bed. So was my sister. An aunt and uncle were born here too. Brother, well, he was the first one born in a hospital. He was spoiled right from the beginning,” she added with a chuckle. The minister had to smile, too, because he recalled similar stories by his grandfather and parents. It surely wasn’t that long ago that lots of people came into the world and left it in rooms just like this one.
“And here in this room is where we took care of grandpa,” she said, “until he took his last breath. Same for grandma, for Aunt Bessie and Uncle Ray, and even Daddy. There used to be pictures, family photos, you know, the old ones that were black and white, all around this room, on the tables and lining the shelves. Generations of family looking on, surrounding you as you came into this world or left it. I guess that does sound strange, doesn’t it?”
“Not at all,” the minister replied, a little ashamed of some of his previous thoughts. “It sounds like family…like love…”
“I have all those pictures over at my house now,” she said. “You’ve seen some of them, but most are packed up here and there. I’ve got one of this house soon after it as built. Grandpa and grandma are standing on the front porch, along with Daddy who was still a little fellow then. Later grandma told me she was pregnant with Aunt Bessie in that photo. I don’t think she ever told anyone else that. It’s my favorite picture.” Now that she mentioned it, he remembered seeing it on the wall in her den.
She took him around the remainder of the first floor. Each room was also serving as storage space. The kitchen looked the worse for the wear. Eula explained that was because a lot of hard work took place there every day and night for many years. She could still see her grandmother rushing around here and there, baking the most delicious cakes, pies and biscuits. “I still have her recipes,” she said. “They are written in her own handwriting. When I touch them it feels like I am touching her in a way. And when I cook using them, I sometimes feel her right there with me. I’m a good cook. Mick said so, anyway. But I could never compare to her.” She was making the minister hungry and missing the cooking of his own grandmother. He also wished he had taken the sweet tea with him. It was dusty in that old house.
The minister thought that perhaps the tour was over now. He was wrong. Eula led him to the staircase. The steps were well worn from many years of use, but solid and he noticed were made of oak. The earlier prayer to avoid the second floor was obviously also being ignored in heavenly places. So up the stairs they went, each step sending its own unique and creepy creaking sounds echoing through the old house.