Gone But Not Forgotten
“Back on its golden hinges
The gate of Memory swings
And my heart goes into the garden
And walks with olden things.” –Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Samuel Johnathan Winchester was a small boy and at the age of five quite young, too. His favorite things consisted of books; a smiling Golden Retriever named Atticus Finch, one well-worn WooBee bear, Macaroni-n-cheese, horses, dinosaurs, and his family of course. At the moment however, Sam was endeared with one Pastor Solomon O’Shaughnessy.
Sam met the pastor several years before at the annual Homecoming picnic held by Pastor Jim Murphy’s church in New Haven. He mistook Solomon for Santa Clause and no matter what the evidence said in contrary, including Caleb Reaves’s valid point that Santa didn’t wear a Hawaiian-print shirt and checkered Bermudas, the then three-year-old Sam could not be convinced otherwise.
In past years before his retirement Solomon presided over the New Haven church as pastor and since Jim filled his position Murphy made it a point to include the elderly man whenever possible. That meant a long two hour drive to the Sunrise Resort assisted living facility in Louisville which Bobby Singer dutifully made each year without his typical dire comments. For you see, besides being a man of the cloth, Solomon was also a celebrated hunter of The Brotherhood. That earned a place of honor and respect among the younger men who had a silver ring in common with him.
None of that mattered to Sam though. He liked the way Solomon chuckled, making his belly wiggle like a bowl full of Jell-o. He liked the quarters Solomon magically found behind Sam’s ears and the never-ending supply of hard candies that sprung from his pocket. Sam liked the retired pastor’s long silver beard and his rosy cheeks, and that he always smelled like pipe tobacco and peppermint. Sam didn’t even mind the fact that Pastor Solomon called him ‘Wee Winchester’, even though Sam’s big brother Dean changed the nickname too ‘Wee-wee weenie Winchester’ in typical big brother fashion.
So, when Jim announced that this year after the picnic Solomon would be visiting the farm for the weekend instead of returning right away to Sunrise Resort, the six-year-old could not contain his joy. He volunteered to gather Solomon’s things and insisted that the elderly man ride in the Impala with him instead of the church van. It was on his mission to retrieve Solomon’s bag that young Sam encountered the widows Dellacourt and Drysdale.
“Poor, poor Pastor O’Shaughnessy. It’s such a shame,” said Widow Drysdale morosely.
“Yes.” Ms. Dellacourt placed a shaking hand to her throat and nodded in agreement. “Poor old thing. But it’s to be expected. He’s nearly ninety.”
“Why is Pastor Solomon a poor old thing?” Sam asked interrupting their gossip.
Both sets of beady eyes went to him as the women seemed surprised to find the tiny boy behind them. “Because he’s lost his memory, child. That’s why,” Dellacourt replied with a tolerant smile.
Sam frowned. “But what’s a memory?” He was always asking such questions.
“Well,” Drysdale said thoughtfully. “It’s something we remember.”
“Or don’t.” Dellacourt added ominously. She forced another smile for Sam and patted his head. “It happens to the best of us, dear.”
Without further information they took their punch and left, leaving young Sam very worried for Pastor Solomon and highly unsatisfied. Sam wanted to know more.
Once back at the farm, Sam found Pastor Jim in the library preparing his sermon for the Sunday morning service. Bobby said Jim was nervous because his old mentor was going to be in attendance. The boys had strict orders from John not to disturb Murphy, but the holy man looked up from his work with a patient smile. “Yes, Samuel?”
Sam leaned his elbows on the large oak desk. “I need help.”
“That doesn’t sound good, my boy.” Jim slid his glasses off and frowned. “Have Dean and Caleb frozen your pajamas again?”
Sam shook his head. “No. I told them what you said would happen.”
“Good.” The pastor nodded. “Nothing puts the fear of God in those boys quicker than spending a few nights at Bobby’s house.”
“It’s not that kind of trouble. I need to ask you a question,” Sam explained.
Jim leaned back and patted his knee for Sam to sit. “Of course. You can ask me anything.”
Sam grinned and climbed on the preacher’s lap. Looking up into the man’s kind and wizened face he asked. “What’s a memory?”
Jim looked puzzled for a moment, but then a slow smile spread across his face. “A memory is something from long ago, something warm and bright, my boy. It wards away the dark and the cold even on the dreariest of nights.”
Sam and Atticus Finch found Bobby Singer in the barn. The mechanic was laying in the dirt on the belly-side of Pastor Jim’s old tractor.
“Bobby!” Sam called loudly even though he clearly saw Singer’s scuffed boots protruding from underneath the great green beast. It reminded Sam of the wicked witch’s feet sticking out from the house on the Wizard of Oz and he wanted to be sure Bobby was in fact all right.
“Ow!” Bobby growled as he rose up too quickly, bumping his forehead on the tractor’s undercarriage. “Damn it, Sam!” He muttered sliding out and stumbling to his feet. “Are your pants on fire?”
Sam glanced down at his jeans and then looked up to Bobby. “No.”
“Then what the hell are you doing scaring me like that? I’m trying to work in here?” Bobby looked over Sam’s shoulder, searching for something. “Did your brother and Caleb put you up to this?”
“No.” Sam shook his head. “They’re in the house. I need to ask you a question?”
Bobby sighed, running a hand over his mouth, smearing his face with axle grease in the process. “This isn’t like that ‘where do babies come from’ whopper you hit me with last time, is it? Because you know Jim made me pull recon hunts for my honest and truthful reply.”
Sam shook his head adamantly and Bobby looked very relieved. “Okay. Let’s here it.”
“What’s a memory?”
Bobby scratched his whiskers. “A memory?”
“Well.” Singer rubbed at his stiff neck. “I guess I’d have to say a memory is something that makes you laugh.”
Sam watched as Bobby’s face changed, not looking as serious and gruff as it usually did. He even smiled and Atticus Finch whined. Sam reckoned the dog was trying to figure out if Bobby was Bobby. Sam wondered the same thing.
The mechanic snorted. “Like I remember there was this one time, Sam when you were just a baby and your daddy first started hunting.” Bobby pulled a stained oil cloth from his pocket and wiped his hands. “Me and old Daniel Elkins took him on a hunt one Halloween and had him completely convinced that the headless horseman existed. He about sh…”
“Bobby?” John Winchester’s stern voice interrupted the other hunter. He moved through the barn doors, a bale of hay in one hand and a bucket of feed in the other. “You’re not telling my son stories again are you?”
“I was answering a question if you must know.”
John grimaced and tossed the hay to the ground. “I thought Jim talked to you about that.”
Singer rolled his eyes. “Then keep the brats from underfoot and bothering me.” Bobby winked at Sam and lowered his voice. “Ask me about it after dinner.”
John placed a hand on his son’s shoulder and nudged him away from Singer and over to where One In A Million and Fat Chance were straining their necks above the stall doors. The horses nuzzled Sam playfully as he climbed up on the rails to rub their heads as John filled their trough with feed. “Sammy, if you need to ask someone questions, I’d rather it be me.”
“But you were helping with the chores.” Sam told him, pushing Atticus Finch out of the way as Fat Chance nipped at the nosy dog, who was curiously sniffing the horses’ lunch. “But I can ask you now, Daddy.”
“Okay.” John conceded. “But next time come to me or your brother first.”
Sam looked up at his father with wide, unblinking eyes. “What’s a memory, Daddy?”
John put the empty bucket down and flipped it over so he could sit, bringing him eye level with his youngest son. Winchester took a deep breath and glanced down at his hands, looking at the simple ring encircling his finger. “A memory is something worth more than gold, Son. It’s one of those things you wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Sam smiled when his dad placed a big calloused hand on the side of his small face. “Do you understand?”
“Yes.” The five-year-old hugged his father, who roughly hugged him back. Sam pulled away. “But can I go ask Mac now?”
John groaned. “Sure. Go to the guy with the M.D. after his name.”
Sam was good with numbers. He memorized Mackland Ames’ office and home number for school last month when starting kindergarten. Sam even knew Mac’s assistant’s name. “Hi Naomi! It’s Sam!”
Sam listened as the woman greeted him with her usual kind voice and then transferred his call to the doctor in question.
It was only a few moments before Mac’s worried timbre boomed over the line. “Samuel? Is something wrong?”
“I told you he would say that,” Sam said to Atticus, who continued to pant from their quick lope from the barn.
“Sam? Are you there?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Mac. Daddy said I could call you because I need to ask you a question.”
“Shoot what, Mac?”
“No, Sammy. This usage of the verb ‘shoot’ is a slang term. It means to continue.”
Sam shrugged his shoulders at Atticus. Sometimes grown-ups were strange. “What’s a memory?”
“Well, a memory is an organism’s ability to store, retain, and subsequently recall information.”
“Oh.” Sam twirled the phone cord around. “Where do I find one?”
“Technically, memory is found in the hippocampus.”
“Is that in your head?”
“So, a memory is something doctors can see in your brain.”
“Theoretically, a doctor can’t…Sam is this for school?”
“Then I will tell you what ‘I’ really think.”
“A memory comes from your heart. It fills you up inside.”
“Yes, Samuel. Just like love.”
Sam tried to be patient as he watched the game over his brother’s shoulder. Dean was always telling him to be patient-to wait-to calm down. Sam drummed his fingers on the table. Atticus rested his chin on Dean’s lap.
“Sam.” Dean finally looked at the five-year-old. “I’m playing cards here. You and your doggy breath pal aren’t helping me any.”
“We’re being patient. I was waiting for you to pair up your queens and kings,” Sam earnestly defended.
“I’m out.” Caleb Reaves announced at Sam’s informative revelation. He tossed his hand onto the middle of the table and slid his ‘loot’ away from the pot.
“Sam!” Dean growled menacingly. “You just cost me the last of Damien’s Oreos.”
“Tough break, Deuce.” Reaves laughed maniacally, tossing one of the chocolate cookies in question into his mouth. The eighteen-year-old slid his chair back and stood. “Thanks, Runt.” He handed another cookie to Sam and ruffled Dean’s hair as he walked by. “Deal us another hand and I’ll bring back some Twinkies so we can up the ante. And I know exactly how many cookies I have in my pile.”
“Dickhead.” The ten-year-old grumbled patting his mussed hair as Caleb left The Hunter’s Tomb. He watched his brother happily munch on his ‘bounty’. “What’s so freakin’ important you gave up my hand, Judas?”
“I need to ask you a question.” Sam sputtered around a mouthful of chocolate and cream.
Dean shot him his most put upon look of undeserved suffering. “Okay.”
“What’s a memory?”
Dean knew his little brother better than anybody. Nothing Sam did or wanted to know was random. He arched one brow suspiciously. “Why?”
Sam shrugged. “Because Pastor Solomon has lost his. And I want to help him get it back while he’s staying with us.”
Dean’s forehead wrinkled as he considered the old man who had taken over their bedroom for the weekend, forcing them to camp out in Caleb’s room. Jim said it was because the Winchester brothers’ room had the bathroom, but Caleb had crowed it was because he was the ‘oldest’. “I don’t think you can help him with that, Sammy.” Dean was pretty sure Pastor O’Shaunessy and his bladder were as old as Moses.
“Sure I can,” Sam said confidently. “I can do anything. You said so.”
Dean sighed. He had said that. But it was concerning Sam’s ability to tie his own shoes. Dean had taught him over the summer. Dean had taught Sam a lot of things. Things that their mom had taught Dean. He pursed his lips. “A memory is something that makes you cry.”
Sam’s mouth formed a little ‘O’ and Atticus whined. “Like when you think of Mommy?”
Dean picked up the cards and started shuffling them. “Maybe Pastor Solomon is glad he lost his memory, Sam,” the ten-year-old snapped. “Did you ever think about that?”
Sam found Caleb in the kitchen raiding the pantry. “Caleb?”
“Can I ask you a question?”
Reaves picked him up and put him on the counter, before reaching over his head to retrieve three glasses from the cupboard. “For the kid who saved my Oreos…anything. Shoot.”
Sam grinned. “That means to continue.”
Caleb pulled the milk out of the refrigerator and filled the glasses. He shoved one towards Sam. “I see you’re still using that thesaurus Dad thought would make a good Christmas gift.”
Sam pointed to the cabinet where the coveted strawberry syrup was hidden way. “What’s a memory?”
Caleb frowned but retrieved the syrup and squeezed some in Sam’s cup. “Is this a trick question? Some kind of weird knock-knock joke?”
Sam grabbed a spoon from the dish drainer and stirred his milk until it was pink. “No. I just need to know what a memory is.”
Reaves leaned against the opposite counter, staring at the five-year-old. “A memory is something you collect throughout your life.”
“Like marbles?” Sam raised a brow.
Caleb laughed. He had heard all about Sam’s new friend from school-Charlie. To hear Sam tell it Charlie’s marble collection rivaled the Pyramids of Gheza. “Yes. Sort of like marbles.” The teen folded his arms over his chest. Memories were like shiny bits of color, life a dissected painting. “Or sea glass.” Caleb cleared his throat and scooped Sam off the cabinet, returning him safely to the floor. “My mom collected sea glass.”
Caleb suddenly seemed sad and Sam thought about what his brother said about Pastor Solomon not wanting to find his memory. He glanced at Reaves who was loaded down with chips, Twinkies, and glasses of milk. “Dean licked the center out of three of your cookies and then put them back.”
“Did he now?” Caleb shook his head, all hints of sadness fading. “Thanks for the intel, Runt. Just wait and see what I do to his Twinkie.”
It took Sam until late in the evening to gather everything he would need-all the things his family had helped him discover. Storing it all in Pastor Jim’s wicker picnic basket, he and Atticus ventured into the library in search of Pastor Solomon.
The old hunter was retired by the fire in Jim’s favorite recliner, a ragged journal resting on his knee. “Pastor Solomon?”
“Wee Winchester.” Solomon glanced up from his reading, a sincere smile on his wrinkled face. “Do good children no longer have bed times?”
“I don’t have school tomorrow.” Sam marched forward, presenting Solomon with the basket. “I brought you something.”
The preacher hesitantly took the offering, lifting the lid carefully. He stared at the contents wondering at what a strange and wonderful child Sam Winchester was. “What’s all this?”
Sam pulled out the piece of steaming apple pie he had placed on top. “Pastor Jim says nothing fills you up like his Miss Emma’s apple pie. She created the recipe from her heart.” He leaned close to Solomon. “Does it remind you of anything?”
Solomon lifted the plate close to his nose and took a big whiff. He grinned. “It reminds me of a diner I use to visit when I was your age. It always smelled like baking apples and cinnamon.” Pastor Solomon proceeded to tell Sam about the neighborhood diner owned by his boyhood friend’s father while they both shared the piece of Jim’s homemade pie.
“And what’s this?” Solomon asked peering into the basket once more. He dusted crumbs from his hands and his silver beard before pulling out a brightly woven blanket.
“It’s to keep you warm.” Sam explained. The blanket was the only thing besides Sam that was saved from his nursery. Sam’s mom had made it for him. It usually rested in the backseat of the Impala. Many a cold night the old quilt had kept Sam safe as he travelled the back roads with his dad and brother. The little boy stood and took the blanket. He placed it snugly around Pastor Solomon’s shoulders. “Does that make you feel better?”
“It does.” Solomon nodded and then shared with Sam a story about his own mother, who never failed to tuck him in as a boy.
Sam watched the kindly pastor remove the baseball card from the picnic tote. His silver brows drew together as he looked at Wade Boggs, infamous third baseman for the Red Sox. “Child, tell me you are not a Boston fan?”
“No. Dean is.” Sam grinned. “He has a huge collection of baseball cards.”
Solomon laughed. “So did I as a boy.” His mustache twitched and he winked at Sam. “But I burnt all the Red Sox ones. I was a Yankees fan.”
Sam listened to the tales of how Solomon’s father had taken him to watch several games where the Yankees had defeated Boston. Sam quickly decided that was definitely one memory Solomon shouldn’t share with his brother. Dean already had hard feelings about giving up his bed.
Solomon’s next journey into the basket revealed a plastic doll with wild green hair and fearsome eyes. Everyone always laughed when Sam explained the tiny toy’s role in his enchanted dragon castle. “It’s a troll doll. I named him Singer.”
The pastor’s bushy white eyebrows drew together. “After our Bobby?”
Sam nodded and the old man chuckled, his huge belly jiggling like a bowl full of Jell-o. “I can see the family resemblance.”
Solomon went on to tell Sam how he first met Bobby’s daddy. Sam didn’t even know Bobby had a daddy.
“This is a lovely flower, Sam.” Pastor Solomon proclaimed as he pulled the Black-eyed Susan from the bottom of the basket.
“I wanted a Daisy.” Sam shuffled his feet and glanced down to the floor. There were none blooming. “My mom smelled like Daisies.” That’s what Dean had always said. “They make me kind of sad.”
Solomon reached out and patted the boy’s back. “My wife Sarah liked Daisies too.” Solomon took a deep breath and stared at the dancing flames in the fire place. “I use to buy them for her on her birthday.” He sighed heavily in a way only adults could. “The last ones I bought were for her funeral.”
Sam bit his lip when Solomon’s eyes filled with tears, his blue irises liquid like watery ink. Maybe Dean had been right. Maybe Pastor Solomon was glad he lost his memory. “I’m sorry.”
Solomon dabbed at his eyes and cleared his throat. “Why are you sorry, Wee Winchester? You’ve been nothing but a delight.”
“I wanted to bring your memory back,” Sam told him. “Mac told me memories were in your heart and filled a person up. Then Pastor Jim said memories were something old, warm and bright and Caleb said they were things you collect. Bobby told me they made you laugh…but Dean said they made you sad.”
Suddenly the basket of gifts began to make sense. Pastor Solomon pulled Sam closer to him and patted his back some more as the little boy rambled on. “Then Daddy said…” Sam hesitated, not sure if his father’s words mattered now. “Daddy said…”
“What did your daddy say, Wee Winchester?” Solomon encouraged the child to go on.
“He said a memory was more important than gold…that it was something you wouldn’t take anything for.” Sam reached into the basket and pulled out the only thing he had that resembled that. Not even WooBee would have done it justice. It was the only item left. “Here.”
Solomon took the picture and his eyes began to water again. Smiling back at him from the worn photograph was Dean Winchester. He grinned at Sam. “Did I ever tell you I use to have a big brother too?”
Dean was already curled beneath the pile of sleeping bags in the center of Caleb’s room when Sam and Atticus attempted to worm their way into the make-shift bed without waking either sleeping occupant. Sam curled close to his brother’s back while Atticus entwined himself around the boy’s feet.
“Did you find his memory for him?”
His brother’s soft question had Sam snuggling closer. “It was never lost really-just misplaced.”
Dean rolled over, their faces inches apart. “Like when Pastor Jim loses his glasses on top of his head?”
Sam nodded. “Yeah. Like that.”
Dean sighed heavily, like only an adult should. “I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
Sam frowned. “Do you really wish you didn’t remember Mommy?”
“I never said that.”
The five-year-old closed his eyes. “I wish I could just remember one thing about her…even if it made me sad sometimes.”
The soft touch to his cheek had Sam staring at Dean again. “I wish I could find your memories of her, Sammy. If I could, I promise you I would.”
“I know.” Sam was silent for a moment and then reached out and clasped his brother’s hand. “Will you ever forget about me, Dean?”
Dean tightened his grip around his brother’s sticky fingers. “Why would you say that? You’re not going anywhere.”
“But if I did…would you want to lose my memory?”
“No.” Dean shook his head. “I’d want to remember you every day.”
“Even if it made you sad?”
“Pastor Solomon had a big brother too. He died in the war.”
“That’s too bad.” Dean met his brother’s solemn gaze and tried for a smile. “I guess it was a good thing you did for the old smelly guy. But you do know he isn’t Santa and this little search and rescue mission isn’t propelling you to the top of the ‘Nice’ list. Right?”
Sam rolled his eyes. “I know that. It’s too cold at the North Pole for Bermuda shorts.”
Dean laughed. “Glad you finally got a clue, Wee-wee Weenie Winchester.”
in the darkness Sam Winchester could see the transformation on his
brother’s face. “Wish I could say the same for you. You still think
that was cream filling in your Twinkie.” And the look of big brother
self-righteousness faded away, just like a bad memory.