I felt an eerie beauty as we drove further away from the city, towards the coast. We turned by a sign “Welcome to Hollow Haven” and traveled by whaling captain architecture and a few local shops.
Townies mingled with each other and smiled as we passed by. For some reason, their smiles seemed to linger too long. I could feel them drop as soon as we disappeared into the trees towards my childhood home. Hollow Haven and everyone in it seemed to be holding their breath, almost as if they were afraid to tell their truth.
As we continued on the winding roads, childhood memories stirred. They felt so distant…almost made up. The buildings in my mind were much more lucent than the fossilized structures we were passing by. I don’t remember much about my childhood. I’ve asked my father about it, but all he’d ever shared was, “You may be historically bound to the past, but I promise, you don’t really want to go back there.”
It made me feel as if he were escaping something, but I just didn’t know what. We whirled around a few more corners on the dirt road before pulling up to the cape cod Hollow house. I felt uneasy as I watched the dust settle over the weeping willows in the yard. Then, through the dust, I was able to make out the figure of Grandma Joe from where she stood on the front porch, eagerly awaiting our arrival.
I hadn’t seen her in what felt like a lifetime. From what I remember, she was against the abdominal patriarchy of menkind (emphasis on men) and was never shy to speak up about it. Grandma Joe stood for justice in the right of feminism and all that is womanhood.
“Little Hollow!” Grandma Joe shouted as she made her way over.
I swung open the jeep door and was immediately enveloped in a squeeze so tight that I felt my lunch churn in my stomach.
“Hi, Grandma Joe,” I grunted.
“You’re not such a little Hollow anymore!” Grandma Joe exclaimed.
“Mother…” my father said under his breath.
“Augustus,” Grandma Joe murmured.
“How have you been keeping?” he asked.
She smirked as if she was acknowledging that he already knew how she was.
“Focus on your own baggage, son. It’s been ten years and I need to know how my granddaughter has been keeping,” she replied.
My father chuckled and shook his head as he removed the bags from the Jeep. I stood quietly throughout the exchange, recalling how my father and Grandma Joe often tussled with each other’s feelings. Grandma Joe was fair, playful, and wild in spirit and although I never met him, it was no surprise to me when I learned my grandfather was even wilder.
Turning to me, Grandma Joe said, “Now, I think we’ve entertained the patriarchy enough for today. Let me show you around. You must want to remember everything!”
“Mother.” my father said firmly as he halted our walk.
“Relaaax, Augustus,” she replied. “If you remember, you’re on Hollow ground again, everything seeps through eventually.”
I had no idea what she meant by that but before I could ask, she was on to the next thing.
“Come, Little Hollow! I’m showing you around!” Grandma Joe said, then proceeded to walk me through the grandeur tour.
She went through every nook and cranny and through it all, I couldn’t help but notice a reoccurring detail…a blue crest with a crown, and the strange lettering “HH”. Over and over, all through the house, I saw the emblem.
As if she could read my mind, Grandma Joe pointed to it and explained, “That’s our family crest.”
“It’s very important – a family…if you’re into that sort of thing,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
Grandma Joe nudged my shoulder playfully and I remembered how she always had a keen ability to make me laugh, even at the hardest realities.
“Come on! I think you’ll remember this,” she said, gesturing towards the glass doors at the end of the hallway. We creaked open the doors, and I could smell honeysuckles wafting through.
Grandma Joe was right – I did remember, and I could feel myself fall back into the world I once lived in. The lighthouse peered in the distance across the water where we played hide and seek. The rows of flowers still bloomed, and a weeping willow cascaded shadows over the yard. We used to sit under it and read for hours on end – everything from Alice in Wonderland, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.
“Grandma Joe,” I said. “This looks the same…but it feels different. I can’t put my finger on it.”
“Hmm… well the Hollow house hasn’t changed. I don’t believe things ever really change. But we do,” she replied.
“Now, help me with these pumpkins!”
“These are gigantic,” I said. “What are you doing with so many pumpkins?”
“They’re for the festival. I don’t know if you remember, but we take Halloween very seriously in Hollow Haven. It’s almost as if it’s a part of our own history,” Grandma Joe said.
“Well, is it?” I blurted. I don’t know why I asked that, but it was out of my mouth before I could think.
“Of course, it is! It’s also someone’s eighteenth birthday,” she said and quickly moved on.
“Now, let’s get these pumpkins inside.”
We sorted quietly through the pumpkins and moved the ones going to the festival into the hallway.
Then Grandma Joe paused and said to me, “You may want to decide if you’re going to get that.”
“Get what?” I said, confused.
“The door,” she said.
“What are you talki–,” I started but was cut off by the sound of the doorbell and before I could ask questions, Grandma Joe had already walked away. How she knew the doorbell was going to ring was beyond me. Maybe it was a weird coincidence, I thought.
I headed down the hallway and through the door, I could see someone’s shadow. Although I didn’t know why I felt uneasy.
Was I opening something that I couldn’t close back up?