Branden Phillips’ arms dropped under the weight of the photo album which had sat undisturbed for years on the shelf of his cupboard. After easing it on to the soft carpet of his bedroom, Branden picked the photo album up from one end and dragged it towards the middle of his room. He found just enough space amongst the cardboard boxes labelled ‘Branden’s Room’ and his scattered personal belongings to be able to lay on his stomach with the album in front of him. Using his hands to support his chin while tapping his feet on the box behind him, Branden admired the gold trimmings etched into the album’s dark red leather cover. Dust filled the air as he lifted the cover, revealing a handwritten dedication page: To Branden. Happy 6th birthday. May your memories grow and learn with you. Love always, Grandma & Grandad. Peeling the dedication page away from the cellophane used to cover the photos behind it, Branden was greeted with a series of photographs capturing the smiles and events of the party his parents had hosted in honour of his sixth birthday. “I sure will miss this house,” Branden whispered to himself as he turned the page, revealing photographs of the day he and his sister, Belinda, received a swing set for their backyard. “I will miss you, too,” replied a deep voice.
Unable to recognise the voice or immediately locate its source or direction, Branden stood up and moved his eyes around his room. “H… Hello?” He was shocked by how timid his own voice sounded. “Is there somebody there?”
“Well, I haven’t been called somebody for quite some time, but let’s stick with that for now.” The voice sounded friendly enough for Branden’s body to relax. He let out a quiet chuckle, stopping himself before it got too loud. “Are you a ghost?” Branden narrowed his eyebrows and squinted his eyes while waiting for a response.
“Let me show you what I can do,” the voice replied. Branden was sure to avoid standing on any of his precious belongings as he looked for evidence of what the voice was planning to show. The ivory paint on the wall beside him started to fade, gradually giving way to the olive shade Branden associated with the first few years he spent in the bedroom. Multicoloured crayon drawings of overlapping wavy lines faded into view along the bottom third of the wall, causing Branden to remember the remorse he felt after being grounded for three days for drawing on the wall of his bedroom. He walked over to the wall and used his fingers to trace over some of the lines. “Why would you want me to remember this?”
The voice took a moment to respond. “We should recognise when our actions result in change, Branden, as these are the moments that define where we will end up.” Branden could hear the echo of his mother’s voice yelling upon discovering that Branden had used the wall of his bedroom as a canvas for his juvenile art. “Every memory you have had in this house forms the walls, Branden. You are the house, and I am you. This is what makes it a home.”
“What if I don’t love my new home the way I love this one?” Branden asked, watching the beige return to the wall under his fingertips.
“There will be history and love available to you in every home, Branden. I will show you.”
Branden stood in the clearing of an open, pinewood forest. Without apparent guidance, pieces of timber started piling up around him, forming the walls and roof of a modest room in a cabin built for a small family. An iron bed with a thin mattress made with a white blanket and pillow appeared in the corner of the room. He didn’t have time to take it all in before the soft dirt under his feet changed to concrete and the wooden walls gave way to brick and mortar. The size of the room increased and there were pictures of a family not too distinct from his own on the walls of a room with a dresser and a mirror positioned beside a timber-framed bed. Carpet appeared underneath his feet now and the walls changed to smooth panels, painted in the colours that Branden identified with his own room. His favourite childhood toys lined the shelves and the room felt a little smaller when the cupboards appeared. Branden closed his eyes as the joyful sounds of his and sister’s laughter filled the room, making him feel he was reliving his childhood in an instant.
Branden looked around his room, seeing the structure itself in a different light and smiled. Over the next two days, he continued packing while taking the time to let the memories of his home both pleasant and unpleasant come and go as they wanted. When the final box was lifted into the truck, Brendan walked back into his room, his voice bouncing off the bare walls as he said goodbye.
“You know, you never really leave a house,” replied the voice as Brendan closed his bedroom door behind him for the last time.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.