John and I didn't talk much on the ride home. My mind was reeling. Had I heard what I thought I heard. Grandmother was worth one million! No there must be some mistake.
"Penny for your thoughts or maybe I should say $1000000" John joked. "I don't know what I'm thinking. What do you think?" I asked John. "Well Carol it's not too hard to figure out it was spelled out pretty plain. What don't you get?" "You're not surprised I take it, you're just as smooth as ever. Nothing fazes you huh" I quipped. "The only hard part to understand is how the hell your family's gonna do it" John laughed. "I know it's crazy isn't it. Guess Grandma's got the last laugh.
Queenie had indeed gotten the last laugh. For when the will was read nobody else was laughing, not exactly. I guess my mother had been right all along. She was hiding loot. Who would have thought it, but one million, no way, she couldn't have had that much.
Grandmother had left half her money and possessions to my father, nothing to my mother or aunt Carrie, who had taken care of my grandmother the last few years of her life. She had left the other half to myself and my sisters and brother to be divided equally. There was one condition. One condition and all would be ours. The condition? We were all to move into her old house, live there six months no exceptions. Could we do it? I certainly didn't know. We had one week to think it over and if we decided not the deal was off! Making it more unacceptable, if one family member my mother, Daddy, Charlotte, Ellen, William or myself did not do it , no one got the money. It was funny she hadn't mentioned our spouses or children.
In her will she had stated, she wanted to give us a chance, a chance of becoming a family again. She said it was the greatest thing she could leave for us. We were sure she was senile and a little evil in her old age.
We were instructed not to consult with one another. She wanted everyone to come on their own, not knowing what the other would choose to do.
As the week was nearing an end I started to panic. John and I had decided to do it and now we were just afraid the others wouldn't and we'd be out our share. I guess our motives weren't off to a great start. All our children being grown pretty much, had decided to opt out. The older two were in graduate school in the summer session. The two younger were taking the summer off and traveling around and such with friends before they started back to school in the fall. I knew they would all be fine and besides we were only an hour away. It was all worked out, but I can't say we were looking forward to it. Was my grandmother crazy, had she really thought this would bring us closer. We'd probably kill each other. We were more like the Calhan's from HEE HAW T.V. show, not the Waltons.
It was nearly sunset when everyone had arrived, but arrive they did. All of us were there. Maybe not looking forward to the next six months, but there none the less.
We all chose our rooms and retired early. John and I took the pink room. It had the same wallpaper all these years. It must have been changed at some point, but no one knew for sure. The house was well over 120 years old. My grandmother had grown up in that house and being the last to marry, she had taken care of her parents in their later years. So naturally she stayed when she and my grandfather were married. It was my grandmother who refused to leave her childhood home. My grandfather, I'd been told was not too happy about it, but he gave in.
Charlotte and Rudy took the sewing bedroom. It had earned that distinction because of an old singer sewing machine that occupied a corner of the room right next to a huge old spinning wheel. It was really kind of creepy I thought and although it was the next largest room, I was more than happy to let Charlotte have it. William and Joanie almost had a fight with Craig about their rooms. One of the bedrooms had a bathroom off of it with only that room the access to it. No one wanted that one. I really think the real reason was because my grandfather and my aunt had died in that room. William and Joanie ended up with that room. Craig insisted his bad back prevented him from the death room as it had been nicknamed. Craig was sure the feather mattress was partly to blame for my grandfather's death, since he had heard he had a bad back too.
Ellen trying to be the peacemaker was willing to take the death room, but William finally accepted it. I think William secretly wanted the death room.
As children we had been fascinated about the room and I'm sure it still intrigued him. Ellen and Craig took the attic room. It was really quite lovely and the largest bedroom. As children we all loved to play up there. Part of the room was storage. I was terrified by that part, but as long as the door was shut to that part I was okay. My parents had taken the bedroom on the ground floor of course.
The sun was blinding me as I tried to open one eye. It was the first morning of our adventure. I stretched, my back hurting from a different mattress. Where was John? What was that delectable smell? I followed my nose down the stairs to the tiny kitchen. John was making breakfast. "Hey honey want some bacon and pancakes, buckwheat even!" John knew buckwheat pancakes were my favorite. He had brought the mix along to surprise me. I hadn't had them since our honeymoon. I had always said how much I loved them, but in all these years John and I had not had them again. They were delicious. John was always quite the cook, messy but good. He loved to create new dishes and did have a flare. "Are we the first ones up?" I asked. What time is it? No and ten replied John. "Where is everybody?" "I fed them too and they're off to the store all except Charlotte and Rudy. They went for a walk. I also called the kids all are well. What's up for today?
We decided to explore. It had been a long time since I had really walked the grounds around the house. I had forgotten how beautiful and lush they were. We met up with Charlotte and Rudy. We picked a massive amount of blackberries and Charlotte promised to make Grandmal's famous blackberry cobble that night. It was a good day.
The first week seemed to fly by, not being too eventful though. We got the kitchen all stocked up, cleaned out some closets, cut down brush and pruned bushes that hadn't been touched for years. Everyone pitched in, some doing more than others, but all trying to make a tense situation better.
One day during the next week something odd happened. A man stopped by, coming to the front door as I was opening it to sweep the porch. "Oh you scared me to death" I cried, clutching my chest. "Sorry dear I thought you probably saw my car pull up" he said. I suddenly became aware of the fact that there was only us girls there. John had gone back to the car dealership he ran. Craig back to the tire place he where he worked and Rudy who was retired had gone with my father into town for another air conditioner unit. "Who are you" I asked. "You don't recognize me dear, has it been that long?" he asked. "No I am afraid I don't, what can I do for you" I asked. "I used to be your grandmother's pastor, you must be Charlotte" he said smiling. Not only had he startled me, but now he had insulted me assuming I was ten years older than I was, but of course he probably thought Charlotte was twenty or so. "No I'm Carol" I defended. "Oh yes now I remember, you're the youngest girl aren't you" he said. I nodded. "Well anyhow my dear I hadn't seen your dear grandmother in ages and had heard of her passing. I saw people milling around here the other day when I drove by. I'm sorry I still haven't introduced myself or should I say reintroduced myself. You see I used to give you candy when you came to church with Queenie, I'm pastor McDonald, Quentin McDonald" he said. Still no memory of him, his face or name. "Nice to meet you" I muttered, my mind still racing, trying to place this man. He wasn't as old as my grandmother maybe 20 years or so younger, it was hard to tell. He was quite handsome and there was something about him that reminded me of someone, but I couldn't think who. "Well my dear I just wanted to stop and offer my sympathy. I've just recently moved back to the area, by the way are you going to live here or someone in your family" he asked? "No, no we're all here for the next few months-- it's a long story" I said. He started to leave saying his goodbyes when suddenly he stopped. "If your family ever wants to sell this house please let me know. I'd be very interested indeed."