I hadn't seen the castle in years.

My mother moved out the day I moved out. She had barely spent any time in it anyway. It was never as much her house as it was my house so she felt that when I was ready to leave it, she would leave it too.

And so she did. Sold it to a rich man named Charlie who had a trophy wife and two blond haired children, one boy, one girl. Charles the third and Cecil. Both such prissy kids that you could tell they would not appreciate the castle.

I hated to see it go. There are always times for moving on though, to help you get through your life. Times that if you know you don't leave right in this instant, then you will never leave. A regret you will keep all of your life.

So you go, as did I.

And I never looked back. Oh I thought of it, dreamed of maybe buying it back and raising my children there. But those were dreams and I knew they were dreams and knew that the castle was not in store for me when I got older.

Four years after we left, I found out that Mr. Charlie and Mr. Charles the first tore it down to make room for a fancy new attempted mansion for Charlie the third and his teenage bride.

I wanted to call him up screaming, "No."

But what was I to expect? That he would knock on my door and ask me to sign a permission slip before he plowed a bulldozer through it.

So I just sat at home in a town rise that was nothing like a castle and thought.

Man, kids don't appreciate anything anymore.

Long before I ever knew anything about Miss Emily Grierson, I was convinced that a character such as her must have lived in the castle long before I did. Surely that could explain the cobwebs in the attic and the creaky floorboards. Not to mention the room that my mother and I had not been able to break in to for at least two months.

It was our nightly job, after supper, to stand jiggling the door knob and trying keys on the ring that the real estate agent had left us. Here was my mother, all hunched over and mumbling and crunching her teeth, and me peering through the key hole, which was only slightly below my eye level.

Skeleton key after skeleton key and not one worked, ever. It would have been so easy to give up and say, "That's our secret room." when guests came over. But what kind of story is that?

So, just as my mother was ready to hire the ever expensive locksmith that we had sworn up and down to each other we would never employ, Elliott and I had the bold and daring idea to climb the tree outside the window and break in that way.

Surely, I reasoned, if something went wrong, she would much rather pay the window man than the locksmith. And so we climbed, higher and higher into the old oak until we reached the sturdiest limb we could find that went close to the window.

Elliott, normally brave, but afraid of heights, decided I should go first, and so I did. Here I was, scooting on my butt across thick bark that scraped the bottoms and insides of my legs, hands in front, grasping the limb and pulling me.

And Elliott, back in the safety net of leaves and branches used as handles and v-neck foot stops, giggling at the sheer silliness of our plan. Of all our plans. But I pushed on, inching ever closer to the curtained window only feet in front of me, knowing that I would be first to find out the secret.

And it happened sooner than I expected it. I was across the limb and at the window, able to touch it and not feel afraid of falling. And to my surprise, it was unlocked. Whoever shut this room off must not have been concerned with the window.

So up I pushed on it, as it creaked and stuck in the tracking until I got it up far enough to climb in. And then it was Elliott's turn. No turning back now, so he had to scoot across the limb just as I did and scramble his way in to the open window.

I didn't turn around to take in the sights until Elliott was safely standing next to me. But when I did turn around, I never wanted to leave the room.

Oh the room in all its never before told glory. White dust, settled on sheets and toys and boxes. Surely this was storage, but what a mountain of goodness it was to two kids in the middle of cool summer.

Papers with all sorts of writing on them. Some had the script of an old woman, shaky from years of use. Some on lined paper with the trying squiggles of a child. And some with a bold man's handwriting. Printed proof of a life that had come and left and forgot about coming back. Letters and deeds and checklists, scraps of paper in boxes folded up and taped and left for forever to find.

And in other boxes, clothing. Smelled like dust but looked clean, and Elliott found himself trying on old suit jackets and pinstriped shirts with cuffs stretched way out beyond his hands. And myself in flowery dresses that, other than in this room, I would never be seen in. A fake pearl necklace that I came to cherish and a silver ring with worn out initials etched on the inside.

And toys. Stuffed rabbits and die-cast cars and books with torn out pages and crayon marks. Black ink faded and color pictures distorted.

It took all afternoon for Elliott and I to sort through all of the treasure. There was so much there that we had not anticipated.

Then we unlatched the lock--stupid thing was stuck because of an old chair wedged up against it with boxes holding it tightly in place-- and went down stairs to announce our adventure.

"Hear ye hear ye! The adventures of Elliott and I! We have been to secret treasure troves and have returned rich in bounty!" I shouted, sliding in to the kitchen, socks on wood flooring.

Oh and the delight of my mother. Already a treasure hunter of ancient things and now able to sort through the modern.

And so she put dig brushes in our hands and followed us right back up to the room. She picked up small things and showed us how to brush them off, all official like. And we would pick out item after item and bring them to her, and she would rub her chin and inspect them and say, "Oh this is from the turn of the century." "Oh my, Mr. Elliott, you must tell me the location of the treasure trove." "This must be worth a million dollars!" "I must certainly ask for a grant to study this great place, children."

And we would all giggle. "Silly mom," we would say. "This has been waiting for you all along."

A million treasured memories, all for free.

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