Remembering the House Before Daleford

The phone rang, jolting me out of my algebraic trance.

“It was the Reynolds in that Daleford house that burned down. Mary Paige and [her dad] Jance are gone,” my dad said. I couldn’t respond—I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it.

It wasn’t until the next day that it hit me and all the memories came flooding back. The Reynolds had lived across the street from me before they moved to Daleford. I was 3 when I met the three Reynolds girls. We grew up together.

When they moved to a Daleford house, the empty white house I knew as the Reynolds’ former home stared at me from across the street every day. On Dec. 18 the new Reynolds’ home burned down, leaving an even emptier shell on Daleford and leaving the family to face the loss of two beloved members.

I had my first ice cream float at the Reynolds house. The dusky sky barely lent us enough light to clamber down from our perches in our favorite tree and race over to the front stoop.

Sitting on the cool stone after a hot day playing in their yard, the sweet bubbly drink was perfect. It became my favorite right then, an ice cream float with Coca-Cola. After a few noisy slurps, Mary Paige joined us with her ever-present Barbie doll on the stoop.

My dad called from across the street, “Time to come home!”

“But Daaaadd,” I argued. Unsuprisingly, it wasn’t a successful argument.

That day was one of those blindingly bright days when the heat radiated off her asphalt driveway. I skittered across the driveway in my bare feet—even though it was cooler in the late afternoon.

Promising to come back the next day, I thanked Mrs. Reynolds and grudgingly went home for dinner. After the ice cream float, I wasn’t even hungry anymore.

Another memory takes me to a time we rode scooters on the sidewalk where we had drawn rainbows and flowers in bright chalk. I tried to follow Sarah Rose and ride down a grassy hill. Instead, I flipped over the handlebars and ripped my thigh open. That was the first time I didn’t cry. I was so proud.

I toughened up after that. We became more daredevil. The Reynolds’ driveway sloped downhill and mine continued the slope across the street. We would wait until the last minute before the car came around the corner and race our bikes across the street. Not the best idea, I must admit in retrospect. Maybe
Mary Paige knew it wasn’t a smart idea but she never said.

One night my family and I were eating dinner outside on the patio when Mary Paige walked across the street to say hello. She was so timid but so kind. I walked her back home to make sure she was safe. She always said hi to me in the hallways at Shaker. Through middle school and high school she never forgot me.
But her autism limited our interaction at school. I wish now that I had spent time in the special-ed classrooms.

In my backyard there was an old woodhouse—it’s gone now. But before they tore it down, the Reynolds girls and I fixed it up; we put in a stone floor and cleaned it and built a fire pit outside. We called it “Narnia.” Lauren Grace loved it. We would play all day in the summer time until the girls’ dad came home or my dad called me for dinner.

Later, whether plying me with food or new activities to try, my dad somehow lured me into learning to mow the lawn. It was a trap. Instead of playing outside with the Reynolds, I would have to finish my yard work and then run across the street. Their dad would pull in their driveway and roll down the window of his dark green Jeep. He would wave and smile at me if I was mowing the lawn but if I was in the Reynolds’ yard, I would run over with the girls to greet him.

They moved out of their house just a little while ago. It was eerie not seeing their dad pull in every day, or seeing Mary Paige outside with her Barbie doll on the front lawn.

Now, there isn’t even the possibility that they will come back.

No matter how many times I walk up that driveway and knock on their door—even if I do it every day, the family I grew up with won’t answer.

A version of this article appeared in print on 15 January 2013, on page 5 of the Shakerite.

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