and the rose bush is still where he left it, creeping along the porch rail. there are notes and names written in pencil on the stairwell to the bedroom that tell stories from my mom and my aunt when they were teenagers. on thanksgiving eve, we stood on those same steps and wrote our names beside theirs. a new generation generating. and his recliner is in his bedroom, along with the blanket i gave him two christmases ago. except now, it's on a new bed. with a new rug and the same old trunk against the wall.
this first holiday of hosting, of rising early and getting the french toast in the oven, sweeping, vacuuming, setting the table, and filling the dishwasher as the last of the relatives drives away, was a gorgeous one. and the first of many. i can't wait to work in the yard, to build another garden, to pick leaves from the old, towering magnolia, and string lights on the shed out back for summer suppers.
it was so hard to leave the cottage. no one asked me to, but the morning of our first day here, i went back there. and i deep cleaned it. i got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the linoleum i used to dance on, the hardwoods pablo used to slide on, and the shower that cleaned our muddy bodies after we got soaked in the downpour last july while working in the tomato plants. and after i threw the last rag away, i hopped up onto the counter and cried (in hindsight, playing "winter song" by the head and the heart may not have been a good idea.) i said goodbye to that place and drove away on the gravel.
but there are new hardwoods now. and new memories to be made. and new traditions to make and old ones to keep. and yesterday was the start. and like nanno would say, "it looks beautiful."