I pulled into the driveway of my childhood home, my dad’s home – a two-story Victorian with a sprawling, tidy porch on a side street in town. It hadn’t changed a bit.
I fished my bag out of the trunk and stepped onto the porch to search for the always-hidden key along a strong of flowerpots near the backside of the porch. Aha.
As I opened the door, even the sound of the lock turning was familiar. I turned the corner into the living room and smelled the lemon cleaner dad still used. I flicked on the light and set down my bag, glancing at the photos on the wall…
Mom in her wedding dress and dad looking so handsome the day they got married. That dress. She looked like royalty.
Mom and dad with me as a chubby, cooing baby. Bright-eyed and reaching for the camera.
Mom and I after my first dance recital at age 6.
That one Christmas in junior high when we got family photos taken and nearly died from having my adolescent acne immortalized in print.
Me behind the wheel of our trusty van with mom next to me. Mom was already getting sick in that picture. Gaunt and losing her hair.
Dad and I taking a selfie before my senior prom.
Dad and I at high school graduation.
Dad and I at my Northwestern graduation.
I paused at this one. Dad was beaming joy and pride. How happy he was to have me go to his alma mater.
I took a deep breath. Smiled. Sighed.
“That’s my favorite, too.” A familiar voice made my heart jump. I spun around, startled, and gasped.
“Good Lord, Georgia.” I clutched my chest. She looked exactly the same – blond pixie cut, big brown eyes, still looked like a 15-year-old even though she was twice that age.
“I scared you. I didn’t mean to -” she started.
I embraced Georgia with a quick hug. “My heart is racing,” I spoke over her.
“-give you a heart attack,” she finished.
Georgia then inhaled sharply, realizing, I’m guessing, it might be a poor choice of words, considering my dad’s condition..
“Oh God. What a stupid thing to say…” she trailed off.
I waved off the thought. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Jesus, I’m so sorry,” she went on.
“It’s fine, George.” Shut up already, I thought. I took a deep, full-of-anxiety breath.
Georgia managed a small smile. “Let’s start over again,” she started. “For real.” She trotted back to the doorway, prepped herself with a big breath, and made a silly over-the-top knock on the door.
“Well hell there!,” she boomed. “Is that the famous Nora Nash?!” She placed her palm like a shade over her eyes and squinted at me. “Formerly of Emerald, Iowa, but now Highfalutin City Girl?”
“Hey now,” I cut in. “‘Highfalutin?’”
Georgia shook her finger at me. “Your questioning of my use of ‘highfalutin’ is indeed proof that you are highfalutin.”
“I’m not sure if that’s true…” I countered.
Georgia broke her character and rolled her eyes. “I’m kidding, Nore.” She paused and I smiled. But maybe just trying to be polite.
A longer pause. Awkward.
“So are you gonna invite me in…or pull some b.s. like you hafta go to bed or some shit like that?
I smiled again, but this time because I was genuinely amused. I shook my head. “Well, as my dad would say, come on in already…what’re you trying to do, air condition the whole neighborhood?”
Georgia let out a holler and ran to the front door, yanked it open and yelled, “Yes! NORA NASH IS BACK, BITCHES!” She was grinning from ear to ear.
I was mortified. Embarrassed…but also maybe still amused.
I pulled her back inside and shut the door. “Oh my God. Georgia!”
We broke into giggles like it hadn’t been more than half a dozen years since we’d seen each other in the flesh.
It was a surprise to me, but I missed her. I missed this house.