The way these brothers and sisters divided their aunt’s possessions is the way my husband and his siblings divided their mother’s. Everything else is fiction.
by Marian Allen
Typical of Eloise to state it so baldly, and typical of Michael to stick his hands in his pockets and reply, in a monotone, “That’s probably why. She didn’t want to saddle any of you with it.”
Eloise gave a playful backhand to his shoulder. “Oh, it’s not that hard. Not for you. Not for my brilliant big brother.” She pinched his cheek, well aware that she was the only person in the world who would be allowed – or would be moved to take – such a liberty with him.
The two younger brothers and three younger sisters arrived, all at least misty-eyed at experiencing Aunt Marva’s house without Aunt Marva’s living personality filling it.
“For the sake of form,” Michael announced, when they were all seated in the parlor, “although you each got a letter and an email explaining this, I now tell you personally that the estate is, to all intents and purposes, settled, as far as my part in it is concerned. It’s now in the hands of the estate lawyer, the realtor, and Aunt Marva’s banker. Any questions should be directed to them. I’ve provided you with their contact information.”
The others smiled as Eloise crossed her arms, leaned back in an overstuffed chair, and growled, “Oh, get on with it! None of us gives a hoot about Aunt Marva’s little bit of money. Today is all we care about, so let’s get to it.”
The contents of the house needed to be disposed of before the realtor’s prep people could flip it for sale. These children of Marva’s only brother had spent many happy hours with their aunt after their mother’s death, and knew each knickknack, whatnot, curio, and piece of furniture or decoration intimately.
All except Michael. He and Aunt Marva had always treated one another with wary courtesy. Of course, he had been older than the others, but still….
The others took turns, from Eloise (the oldest, after Jonathan) to Bea, the youngest, choosing items they wanted from the house’s inventory. Jonathan listed each item in a ledger in his clear, firm, printing.
“Oh, these geese!” Eloise picked up a pottery salt and pepper set shaped like a pair of geese with blue ribbons around their necks. “She never let us touch these.” She laughed, pretending she was going to juggle them.
“I know!” Bea laughed. “Put them down! It makes me nervous to see them off the shelf.”
“I wonder if they’re valuable.” Eloise turned them over. “Well, look at this!” She showed the feet around the family, Michael last.
On the feet of each goose was a label with his name on it, written in the shaky script of Aunt Marva’s final months.
“Guess these are yours,” said Eloise, putting the geese back and claiming Aunt Marva’s grandfather’s baby fork.
When everything had been spoken for that was wanted and everyone had carried their mementos away or made arrangements for collecting them, Michael was left alone.
He picked up the geese, one in each hand, and looked at his name on their feet, especially at the foot of the one in his right hand, which had been broken and glued back.
He had been four, staying with Aunt Marva while his mother was in the hospital giving birth to Eloise. Aunt Marva had been dusting this goose, and he had thought it would be the funniest thing in the world to poke her bottom and make her jump.
He could still hear the sound of the pottery hitting the edge of the coffee table. He could still remember the smell of the dust under the guest room bed, where he had hidden, finally going to sleep there, being retrieved by his father late in the night.
Behind where the geese had stood was the box they had come in, their picture printed on the front and back. He put the figures on a lower shelf and took down the box. He opened it.
In the bottom was a piece of pink paper, familiar to him from Aunt Marva’s caregiver’s notes. He pulled it out. Unfolded it.
Aunt Marva’s wiggly writing, again.
All is forgiven.
As he drove away from the house, the geese in their box carefully seat-belted next to him, Michael was astonished at how happy he felt, and at how light of heart.
~ * ~
I’m posting today at Fatal Foodies on the topic of — what else? — goose.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Inheritance, geese, fork, antiques, breakables.