By Kitty Jarman
I was five when Momma helped us make a candied gingerbread house on New Year’s Eve, 80 years ago. A kind neighbor had given us the kit. That night I took it to bed with me. Thank God that I did.
There’s a sweet little song I sing in my head. It comes to me when I’m under stress or just before I fall asleep. My sisters, Vicki and Susie and I, sang it for hours that day. While the wind blew outside and snow fell, we put it together with Momma. We all laughed for the first time since Christmas. That’s when the big fight happened. Daddy yelling then slamming the door when a taxi honked its horn. Momma cried all day.
But on New Year’s Eve day we completed the Gingerbread house and let it dry on the counter, then Momma said, “Come help me clear the snow off the car.” It had been parked for a long time and Daddy said it was broken. “I need to get out,” Momma said rushing me out the door.
I followed her reluctantly, sensing her dark mood. After clearing enough snow off the door to get in, it still wouldn’t start. Her face got red, she began crying. When she banged on the steering wheel, I ran back inside. She followed me soon after and seemed to calm down, even smiling a little as she got us ready for bed. But we were restless wanting to stay with this happy Momma. She finally promised we could eat all the candy on the gingerbread house in the morning, letting me take it to bed.
She waited until midnight then burned our house down, after shooting each of us and then herself. Horrified firemen pulled us out, my arms still around this candied house and two bullet holes in my leg. I was the sole survivor.
Today, that magic candy house lives in a plastic sack way back in the attic of my home. But every New Year’s Eve, I release the twisty tie and let the sickly-sweet scent fill my nostrils, remembering the rush of anticipation and how delicious that candy would taste. Then I imagine little voices singing in my head and I sing with them. Letting the healing feeling seep into my aching old body.
Today, I can tell you the past still hurts. Hurts more than a couple bullets. But time does heal. So, once a year I recover the proof and sing to my dead little sisters in memory. I touch each piece, remembering their smiles, speaking their names out loud. Little souls robbed of a chance to know sweetness of life.
I believe we can all have a candy house that helps in some way to celebrate life and love. Even if it represents loss and pain and is still sprinkled in splotches of blood.
Kitty Jarman, a poet and writer of short stories published her Book “Dead Orchids,” in 2017 on Amazon. Her short story “Encounter at Crooked Creek” is narrated at Window Read – YouTube, May 2021.