Sunday, January 23, 2011

grandma and grandpa's house

Houses are powered by memories. As my husband scrolls through home-for-sale listings, I wonder what memories my son will have, what details will matter to him, and how I can make for him a home that comforts. A home for love.

It's close to a decade since my grandparents were forced by failing health to move to a retirement facility. I lost my grandfather, I may be losing my grandmother, and I find that I miss their old house, more even than I miss the house I grew up in.

It was a warm house with a small kitchen, dish rags hanging from wall-mounted rails, the cookie jar of windmill cookies, a vinyl tablecloth with scotch tape over any cuts, pine cupboards storing well-worn white Tupperware that Grandma had washed by hand thousands of times. It smelled of roasted meat and dish soap.

Grandpa would sit at the table, a small TV playing the news or Matlock or The Bold and The Beautiful. He'd wear thin, white undershirts, gray chest hair showing over the collar, and play solitaire with faded cards. I'd sit on a chair, on my feet, and hope that Grandma was making macaroni and cheese instead of gross vegetables.

I can barely stand how much I miss it. The people, their voices. The room and its smells.

Grandma would read with me, watch Mr. Rodgers, sing "You Are My Sunshine," push me on the swing set outside, play gin and king's corners and old maid. I'd trail after her to the basement to watch her move undershirts and old handkerchiefs from the washer to the dryer, and peek through the small basement windows where I could just see Grandpa planting red geraniums along the house.

I have an anti-photographic memory. I can't really bring faces to mind, not even my husband's when he's sitting next to me. But I can see my grandparents' house, the red berries that fell from the tree over their sidewalk, the jewelry box on my grandmother's dresser, the linen curtains, the gold flowered wallpaper on the bathroom walls. I remember the starchy, powdery detergent smell from Grandma's closet, the sound of the spare refrigerator humming to life, the mirror shelf on the living room wall where stood an artificial rosebud in a slender vase.

Little changed in their house, I could count on that. But now I'll never be there, with them, ever again.

I grieve for the loss of it. There is nothing that can last forever. Places, things, people, even memories. All of it is impermanent, all but love.

1 comment:

  1. This post was incredibly moving for me. I haven't had my granmom in years. I think of her often but haven't thought about her house in years. Now that I try I am picturing similar sight and smells. I love that my father was able to refinish her bedroom furniture for me and I see it every day. Even with that, I forgot what her bedroom looked like and how it was the heavy dark stain (it's now a very light maple color).
    Thank you reminding me of all that I was forgetting.