Miranda dropped by in the morning, looking like the world was ending.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You’re moving,” she replied.
“But that’s a good thing!” I said. “I’ll be living on the island! You can take the ferry when you come visit!”
We headed inside. I had a little bit of time before morning ferry left.
“You’ll see,” Tia Berry said. “Not that much will be changing.”
“Everything’s changing,” said Miranda.
“You’re forgetting about the club,” said Tia Berry. “It’ll be like old times, only better. We’ll take the ferry to the island and do yoga under the pines!”
“You think we’ll still meet?” asked Miranda.
“Of course!” said Tia Berry.
“Of course!” I agreed. “The club goes on!”
I left them smiling. I walked down to the ferry terminal myself. Mãe thought it would be easier if we didn’t make a big deal out of the goodbye. I didn’t have much to carry–a violin case, a guitar case, a backpack full of clothes.
On the ferry, I didn’t look back. I turned towards the island and let the mainland recede. I was heading towards something.
The island air brought back so many happy memories, all those afternoons running free through the meadows while the avós were in the cottage.
And now, the cottage is my home.
It smelled so good–like lemon floor wax.
My cousins had taken all the furniture. Avô‘s work became even more desirable after his passing, and since I got the house, they got the furnishings. Monetarily, they got the better deal. But I wouldn’t have traded for anything.
The only piece of furniture was the bed that avô had crafted for me, left up in the loft where I always slept every time I stayed over.
I took a nap, and when I woke up, I heard a girl’s voice calling, “Hello? Welcome? Anyone home?”
I looked out the front window to find a young blonde woman standing before the house holding a plate of fruit cake. We love fruit cake in our family!
I smiled when I saw her. Her eyes were the same color as her sweater–a blue exactly the shade of the clear water in the bay.
“We heard you were moving into Papa Carlos and Bella-Bella’s house,” she said. “We’re your neighbors.”
Her older sister joined us.
“You knew meus avós?” I asked.
Sofia, the older sister, laughed. “Sure! They were like grandparents to me and Elsa! We came over every day after school.”
“Your grandma was teaching me to sing,” said Elsa.
I had a weird moment. Somehow, I’d always thought of meus avós as mine. I mean, I know I shared them with my cousins, but the cousins were nearly grown when I was a little kid, and they hardly saw the avós. These girls were my age! They grew up next door to meus avós. They probably had known them better than I had–or at least they saw them more often.
My friend Max joined us. He’s a neighbor now, too.
“Moving day, huh, Charlie?” he asked.
I’d turned to head inside, when Elsa began to sing. It was that aria minha avó loved to sing to me, “Quando m’en vo!” Though Elsa’s voice was thinner–more like a reed–than the rich velvet voice of minha avó, I recognized the phrasing that minha avó loved to use. In this girl, this neighbor, something of minha avó will live on.
My new and old friends–my new neighbors–followed me inside.
“Hey, there’s no furniture!” Max said.
“It feels kind of empty,” said Sofia.
Sofia looked around the empty room.
“The piano’s gone,” she said. “I can still smell cinnamon, though. Can you? I loved your grandma’s cookies.”
Her face fell.
I’m not the only one to miss meus avós. My feelings must have shown, for Sofia walked across the room and wrapped me in a big hug.
“I’m glad you’re here,” she whispered. Her voice caught a few times, and it grew thick as it moved past stifled tears. “It’s like the house still has a piece of them. You look like them, you know.”
When my friends and neighbors left, I grabbed a slice of the only food in the house–Elsa’s fruit cake–and sat on the only piece of furniture in the house–my old craftsman bed.
I called Mãe after I ate. I’d never had a night in my life where I hadn’t said good-night to her. Even when I stayed over here, I’d always call minha mãe before bed.
“Oh, Spud, I didn’t think you’d call!” she said.
We talked for so long. I filled her in on the neighbors and told her about how a piece of minha avó continues on in Elsa’s singing. I told her how my heart felt wobbly when I saw how much Elsa and Sofia missed meus avós. She told me about how Berry was going through the house talking to each painting and drawing I’d made.
“Put minha tia on the phone,” I said.
Tia Berry told me a story about two pigeons keeping guard along the top of the fence, and something about the way she told it, the voices she used for the sergeant pigeon, struck me as so funny, I was still laughing when I hung up the phone.
And then, the house was silent.
I could hear the foghorn in the bay. I could hear the waves rolling over the pebbles. I could hear the house creak as the timber shifted in the cool night air.
I went downstairs and turned on my old boom box.
While I danced in the empty house, I thought about Mãe and Tia Berry, falling asleep in the room they shared, knowing that when they woke, I wouldn’t be there with breakfast waiting for us.
I thought about the emptiness of this house.
I listened for echos of the voice of minha avó and the chisel of meu avô.
I heard the wind in the pines. I heard the distant foghorn. I heard the music on the boom box, an old recording of “Quando m’en vo!”, the aria minha avó always sung, the one that Elsa sang today.