Packing up my sister's bedroom and leaving it behind was one of the hardest things we've ever done as a family, when my parents moved.
Not too many teenagers had their own smiling face printed on posters boards and banners but she did, and for years they took up space on her bedroom walls and served as daily reminders of the challenges she faced and the recognition she so rightfully deserved. Those posters were never supposed to come down, but they did. They got rolled up and held together with a rubber elastic and stuffed in a box next to a signed poster of Celtic Thunder. Loonette, Molly and the two dust bunnies from the hammock above her mirror also found room in the box, and with that we remembered how Dad pretended to believe they were real, wanting nothing more then to have them disappear forever.
All that was left of the four walls that protected her and her special things was her favorite shade of purple, nail holes and empty corner shelves where her Angels sat above her bed. Her brightly colored quilt was folded up, frilly curtains taken down, and one by one her teddy bears were taken off the bed where they slept beside her for 18 years. Her jewelry box still sat on the pink runner of her white dresser that was strung with feathered boas, medals, her pin collection and her dolls - but Mom, Erica and I proudly wore the jewellery that was once kept inside. I ran my fingers along the swirling grooves of her dresser drawers one last time before it would go to my niece.
Her floor to ceiling bookshelf stood at an angle in the corner of her room. This would be the hardest part. Her books. Hundreds and hundreds of books; her most prized possessions. Every book on that shelf was flipped through countless times by her long piano fingers. Every book was taken off the shelf and put back in alphabetical order and recorded in a scribbler for inventory. Just Like Dad by Mercer Mayer (2 copies), Trixie Belden Volume 1-39, and her favorite's Lizzie McGuire Volume 1-32. Every book on that shelf was signed out and returned when we played Library, doodled on and re-written over and over in her notepads. Every book bought from Chapters, where she and Dad browsed the shelves for hours at a time before sitting with their Starbucks in their happy place.
We believe that in her entire life, she never finished a single book she set out to read. We watched her read and re-read each and every one, but just as she was nearing the end she'd start again from the beginning. She'd move from Lizzie's Broken Hearts to Best Dressed to The Importance of Being Gordo all in one day, never getting to the last page. Perhaps, like with everything else she loved so much, she didn't want it to come to an end.
In Mom and Dad's new home Christine doesn't have a bedroom. Despite feeling her presence everywhere and truly believing she is with us wherever we go, their new home was missing that one special place where you could go to feel close to her. It was missing that place you could go to hold onto something she loved and remember her, the place you could go to close your eyes and for a second, pretend nothing has changed...
... Until now.
After work yesterday I stopped at my parent's new house where my very excited Father wanted to show me his latest project. Without even letting me remove my boots, he lead me upstairs to see yet another masterpiece in the making. I wasn't sure what to expect, seeing that his latest design was a SueBee sized staircase to the window sill, their spoiled dogs favorite perch. So with my eyes closed and a bit of hesitation, I held his hand as he guided me step by step to the landing where I opened my eyes to a bookshelf built into the wall. On the top shelf a book I haven't seen in six years, so perfectly titled Happily Ever After sat alone.
For Christine's books, he said. And from below my Mom asked if I could picture an area rug, comfy chairs and all of her books on the shelf. She asked if I could see how warm and inviting the space could be, and if I could see the little girls cuddled up reading books and enjoying them the way Christine did...
...Yes Mom, I can see it. I can feel it, too.