This castle was five stories high, and its windows and brick front gazed down on Henry Street where it sat, well-mannered, the street a parlor and the house foundation a silk settee, its stoop the polished mahogany tea table where it entertained an always-varying assortment of guests.
In the walls of the castle, the light was dim, and the air was heavy and smelled of old old things that couldn't be named. The castle had ghosts, too, and a cold spot at the top of the first flight of stairs, so that sometimes when the girls passed there, it felt like walking through lakewater, and they shivered.
In the castle, they lived their lives. They ran up and down the five flights of stairs; they shouted to each other leaning over the bannisters, floors apart; they played in the attic, the old servants' quarters, where no one else ever went anymore, and wore the clothes of their recent ancestors (the dead foxes with faces, the red chiffon nightclub dresses, the pillbox hats).
They slept in iron beds with dancing friezes molded on the headboards, under fancy bedspreads, painstakingly crocheted by the Matriarch. The nights in the castle felt sometimes long and dark, and were full of little noises, and often the sisters would reach out to hold hands across the wide yawning chasm between the beds.
Though the castle was not very cozy, it was their home.
But there came at last a time when a wicked glamour fell over the inhabitants of the castle, though no one knew who had cast the glamour, and the people who lived in the castle wondered continually "why us?" Many sad things began to happen to them. Some died, terribly, and some went mad from grief, and there was bitterness and there were complicated betrayals of the worst sort, one after another after another, like a delicate stack of falling cards. Through it all, the two little girls watched and waited and worried, to see what might become of them.
When there were only three left out of all of them, it happened finally that the little girls and their mother had to leave, and a family of strangers moved into the castle at Henry Street.
The sisters grieved their losses, and it was a very hard and long grief, until finally they could go on and grow up.
But the dreams never stopped, and often to this very day the older sister wakes in the grey dawn in her own house, beside her own husband, confused, not remembering where she is, because all night long she has been walking up and down the stairs of Henry Street, and wandering in and out of its kitchens, catching a pale glimpse of herself in its windows and mirrors, and talking with the dead Matriarch and Patriarch, who seem to sit forever at their dining table, drinking their forever cups of tea and eating their forever toast, and waiting for her to come back to them.
And to this very day, she keeps a strangely shaped key on a sterling chain, the key that fits that door, the door to my castle.
All photos of my childhood home taken by my grandfather, Max Pollack