My Grandmother’s house is worn and old. The floors in certain spots sink toward the earth as though the weight of all it’s memories is too much to bear. The paint on ceilings and walls roll up like unkempt blankets on hard mattresses and here and there the tape pressed haphazardly along the plastic against the windows tears with age of too many winters. If you looked at my Grandmother’s house with the eyes of passerby’s it would be easy to see only what is wrong with it, but to me it is vividly beautiful.
The small one bedroom, made into two, house has been in our family since my Grandmother was younger than I am now. My Father was born and raised in this little house with his three brothers and sister. My Grandmother grew up in the house diagonal from it and these houses have been in our family for generations. Every wall is plastered with a half a century of memories, my Father’s childhood drawings rest beside mine; every birth, every baptism, every kindergarten graduation, prom, achievements, high school graduations, weddings, deaths and births of children/grandchildren/great grandchildren… not a memory is left behind in the stacks of photos and news paper clippings. To walk through the front door is to walk into a museum of all the generations of our lives. My Grandmother missed nothing, not a single moment.
The house remained the same for over a century and only in the last decade had there been changes to it. Minor at first as her children took out much of what they believed to be unimportant and then grandchildren as they expanded to make room for themselves by removing and boxing or remodeling. They did much of this without my Grandmother’s permissions, or her knowledge, and by the time I had finally gotten back to the house after six years it was in ways unrecognizable inside. I wept with my Grandmother over lost treasures, over space that had taken up where memories once rested. I wept because the dresser where I would sneak out a single piece of Doublemint gum each visit or was rewarded from with a solo piece of Andies Candies was moved away from where I stood on tip-toes to reach the highest drawer. I wept for my children and their children as they will now not be able to visually see the memories of me or my father or his father before him. Most of the memories are still there, tucked away in plastic tubs stacked so high to the ceiling you can’t even reach them, but the visual memory has changed as though someone remodeled a historic village and placed signs of “Here there once stood an organ that dated back to the late 1800s.” The village still exists but the ghosts have all but disappeared.
I worry about my Gramma in this new house. Before I could imagine her in her old age sifting through the memories that lay resting by her pillow, never alone as the ghosts of our generations tucked her in at night and the walls that creaked and cracked in the wind would play lullaby’s to her resting ear. Now I am left with this vision of a newness that aches in me and when I close my eyes and try to remember the bed with the feathered pillows that smelled of dust and age, it’s gone. I try to remember the old jelly jars and plastic heads of creepy dolls and they’re gone. The boxes and boxes of treasures… gone. I find her weeping with her loss, weeping for our futures, weeping for her past, weeping… weeping… and endless mourning for all she had lost before and all she had taken from her.
One day I will go back with all my memories. Like her I keep them, though mine in my heart and hers in her photographs. As my Grandmother and Father once told me, there is no other in our family that has such vivid recall of memories as I do. So I’ve vowed to myself I would go back and I would bring down those plastic tubs and stack them side by side by side, blue on blue. I would tear them open with gleeful childhood abandon and place them where the torn and dusty boxes once were long ago. I would rebuild the memories of our past for our future. I would give my Grandmother solace for all the years I have been absent from her, all the years I ran away from everything I was to come home, where nothing had ever changed, to find it missing or overgrown.
|An old tire I used to dance on and play ring around the rosy.|
One day I will do this so that my sons can walk through the door and on tippy toes reach to the highest shelf to sneak their own piece of Doublemint gum thinking to themselves that no one would ever know while Grandmother smiles secretly around the corner. I will place their colored pictures beside my colored pictures, beside my father’s colored pictures and she will give them a small little Andie’s Candie’s square of minty blue bliss. Until the earth can no longer restrain the house’s memories and somehow absorbs the last of us, it will stand waiting for my Great Grandchildren long after I am gone. It must in some way stand contained without conformity, it is all we have.
My Grandmother’s house is worn and aged as I am growing worn and aged. The older I get the more I realize how important it is. I realize that even though the paint crinkles, the windows wear the weather of centuries and the floors can hardly bear the weight, it is so achingly beautiful… so extraordinarily majestic with all it’s blemishes, with all it’s tatters and rips and brokenness. It is so human, this house, my Grandmother’s house. And she, my beautiful Grandmother, the perfect spirit holding on against all that is left to her… hope. Hope that we will remember, remember her… remember where we came from… remember our story.