Transcription of an untitled handwritten document by Sibyl Mary (Croly) Hanchett. Not dated, but written after 1944, the year in which Sibyl’s son, Billy, died. Title added for clarity and reference. Transcribed by Jonellen (Chandler) Goddard, July 2018. Original in Chandler Family Archives.
She stood in the twilight, on an unpaved road, scarcely more than a wagon track that stretched on either hand to north and south. Along the horizon lay a faint glow, too dim to reveal details, but enough to outline the low roof of a cottage and emphasize the deep shade of its surrounding shrubbery, and the shine of one bright window. Turning to the left without a glance back in the direction whence she might have come, she walked the few paces to the door.
She was filled with tremulous hope. The place was so exactly as she had pictured it. This must be the perfect home-coming – her mind would consider no alternative. Who would be there to welcome her? Would they recognize her after the many wearing years? And how should she address them? But now none of these questions amounted to any disquieting doubt, or shook her ecstatic anticipation.
She stood on the low wooden wooden step and raised her hand to knock. Before it could fall, the door opened and a young woman stood in the light, smiling at her. A young woman, slender and graceful with vivid dark auburn hair, merry brown eyes, and a face that was completely recognizable even though one had never seen it in its present perfection of feature. The young woman held out her arms. ”Child! You’ve come,” she said softly.
There was no strangeness, only glad reunion, as the newcomer was received into those arms, rested her face on that breast, and was quietly drawn into the welcoming warmth of the little room.
For the moment this was enough, but soon she heard another voice, a man’s voice, calling her name, “Sibyl.”
She lifted her head, sat up straight and looked at him in glad amazement. “Billy” she cried, for this handsome young man was surely the son she had lost in the war. 1 But a quizzical look on the blue eyes made her doubt, even before he said, “Guess again, Sissy!” Then she knew, and was enfolded in her father’s hug.
“But you’re both so young!” she cried when they had settled down to chat.
They glanced at each other and smiled. “Oh, we’re just looking our best.”
“It seems ridiculous for me to be calling you mother and father, but I do feel just like a little girl who has just come home after a hard day at school.”
“Yes, just for tonight you’re our little girl that we have waited for,” they assured her.
“There is so much I want to ask but I don’t know where to start,” Sibyl said, “But first, where is Billy? Shall I see him?”
“Yes, you will see him and the others soon. But just at first mother and father are the ones to welcome you.”
“Do all parents wait to welcome their children?”
The mother undertook to explain. “All parents wait – that is they don’t go on – until all their children come over. Usually they wish to be on hand to receive them, but in some cases, where the bond of affection is very weak, they leave the welcoming to others.”
Sibyl looked around the little room, furnished as a very modest, old fashioned farm house living-room. “It’s so exactly as I have always imagined it,” she said, “Have you been living here all the time?”
Her father answered her, “We don’t exactly live here now. We have kept up this little place because we knew it was where you wanted to come. Evidently it meant home to you. We didn’t know why. But when people have a clear picture of a place that means home, we always try to bring them to that place.”
Getting back to personalities, which had indeed not been absent from her thoughts, Sibyl asked, “Shall I see my little baby who died long ago?” 2
Again her father answered gently “There was nothing to hold him here. If there is no real bond between you, you will meet him again, but not here.”
“Then your little girl, baby Margaret, who died before I was born – you never saw her?”
“No, she went on. But I shall see her again,” he said, apparently without sadness.
“And your first wife—forgive me if I ask things I shouldn’t.” A smiling negative gesture reassured her. “Did she ‘go on’, as you call it, when Charlie came over?”
“Soon afterward. And your mother’s first husband, Albert, stayed here only a little while after Mary came.”
“We’re a pretty complicated family with all our steps and halfs, aren’t we?”
“Nothing compared to some of them with a lot of divorces and extra marital parents,” said mother. “Fortunately, most people soon learn to accept the complications with good humor. Some men are even held here by children they don’t know about. They aren’t very happy, but they make themselves useful to other peoples’ children.”
“Where is here?” was the next question that occurred to Sibyl. It seemed to cause her father some amusement.
“That is too much of a question for you just now,” he said. “To understand the answer you need more maturity – more scope – in your concept of space. You didn’t actually know where you were in space when you took for granted that you occupied a real place – now did you?”
Thoughtfully Sibyl shook her head. He continued, “Then as long as the place you are in is a real place, just be satisfied with that. You will have a chance to improve your understanding later.”
This was satisfactory enough, especially as her mind had darted to another problem. Looking from one to the other of her handsome young parents dressed in their shining clothes, it occurred to her to consider her own appearance. She glanced down at her dress. It appeared coarse, shapeless, and, while not actually dirty, dingy in color. She held up a hand and examined it. It was wrinkled and spotted, the hand of an old woman.
“May I see a looking glass?” she asked.
“If you wish. But it would be better to wait until after you have rested,” said mother, “Then you’ll be looking your best.”
“Ma knows best,” said father. It was a family by-word.
“All right, Mama” Sibyl agreed with a sudden pleasant feeling of weariness. “I think I would like to go to bed.”
Bed was soft, with an elaborate patchwork coverlet, and snowy sheets that flowed like cool silk around her naked body. Resisting for a moment an overpowering drowsiness, she called her mother back. “Will you be here when I wake,?” she asked, for there was of vestige of doubt whether the whole thing might not be a dream.
“I surely will.” The voice that had never deceived her was enough to send her in all confidence into the deepest, sweetest sleep she had ever known.