As I sat in my grandparent’s driveway for the last time I felt like the breath had been stolen out of me, and while I was struggling to process the reality that was in front of me, it still felt very surreal. It was like I was a kid who had just flipped over the handle bars, having the wind knocked out of you knowing you have no other choice but to pick your self up and dust your self off. Everything seemed louder, busier, EMPTIER. It was just more of everything all at once.
I got out of my car and stood in front of my grandparents once meticulously kept ranch style home. A home that had risen like a phoenix out of the ashes after an accidental fire in the early 1960’s. A home that had hosted many family gatherings, holiday celebrations, death and re birth. When I entered the house I was met with the echos of the past. My grandparents were old school Portuguese who kept their house so clean and organized it could’ve been a museum,complete with the ‘sacred’ living room that no one was allowed to even look at except special occasions, namely Christmas. Each room had it’s own name as if it were some kind of mini Whitehouse :
– The blue room : names for it’s baby blue color scheme. Everything was blue, the carpet, moldings, curtains. I think it
was a way to give a masculine undertone to balance out the rosey pink master bedroom across the hall.
– My grandparent’s master bedroom : aka my grammy’s rosey pink bedroom. Pink was her absolute favorite color.
Gorgeously custom built in vanity with spacious closets on each side (both for my grammy obviously). My grampa’s
closet was across the room on the otherside of the built in tv cabinent. I remember as a kid sitting with my
grammy at bedtime, reading the National Enquirer and watching Inside Edition as she smoked her Newport
Menthol’s. There was a glass slider that opened up on to a deck that over looked their magnificent yard. In it’s
hey day grammy kept her flowers like the special edition of Better Homes and Gardens.
– The Living room : aka the holiday room. It was just that – special occasions only no exceptions, and certainly no
shoes. Hell no. White carpet so sacred that even the Christmas tree couldn’t touch it, they always had a mini tree
on a table by the window. In the southwest corner was my grammy’s curio cabinent that housed her prized
collection of crystal butterflies and ceramic birds and the occasional poodle.
– The TV room: Just past the sacred living room was the tv room where you were actually allowed to sit. It had a real
slate floor, cathedral ceilings and wall to wall wood paneling. A true time capsel for the era it was built in. My
grampa and I would catch the latest episodes of Jeopardy ! Matlock or Murder she wrote in that glorious 1960’s
As I continued through the house I checked and rechecked pantries, closets, shelves, drawers – everything. I knew they were empty . I leaned against the walls, pressed lightly against the windows. Waiting. Waiting for a feeling , a memory, anything.
It was an odd feeling being in a house you grew up in and feeling like a stranger. Half afraid to get in trouble for being there, even though you had a key. It was an empty hollow shell of what it once was. The atmosphere most certainly changed after my grammy died 20 years ago, now that grampa is gone I feel like the heart of the home has stopped beating. It really feels like an object, a commodity – not a living part of you. It was empty, it was no longer ours.
After taking what emotional inventory I could inside the house I moved on to the back yard. It’s more than just a yard, property would be more fitting since you could probably fit two houses on it. Wandering near the edge of the back deck I am reminded of the large Hemlock that we use to climb and watch birds from. After some kind of tree infection it had to be cut down, leaving a large open area that is till obvious to me 20 years later. Every time we would visit I kind of expected it to be there and was disappointed when it wasn’t. Across from where the hemlock was there are two perfectly spaced trees that use to hang my grampa’s hammock, which was the perfect resting spot in the spring and summer. In front of the hammock was the main garden where grampa had a huge field of vegetables. It was also the scene of epic battles between my grampa and the squirrels that were the bane of his existence. He would come up with the most ridiculous contraptions to fend off the rodents, which only worked maybe a quarter of the time. In the southwest corner of the yard lays the remains of the once crown jewel – the pool area. A fully enclosed in ground pool with a diving board, patio and complimentary lawn ornaments. Having been filled in a long time ago after the liner started to fail, all that remains is the cracked cement patio, my grammy’s over grown lilly of the valley and decreped mid century lawn ornaments.
My father’s childhood, my childhood, both of my children’s 1st birthdays , a lot of awesome went down. I remember one day, not long after we had moved in with my grampa, he had a big smile on his face. He put his arma round me and thanked me for putting life back into the house. I wish I could go back to that day 1000 times over and hug him and just really enjoy that moment. I feel like we never really appreciate anything until it’s too late.
There wasn’t much left at the house , I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe some kind of hidden treasure just for me that was left behind. Everything from my father’s childhood , my grammy’s wedding dress, photo’s, Kennedy memorabilia, were all lost in the fire almost 50 years ago. Most of my grammy’s belonging’s were thrown out, given away or sold after she died. My grandfather’s belongings suffered the same fate. I found a few straggling items in his shop covered in dust, it felt more precious than gold. The house was sold and the deal has been finalized. That entire chapter of my family’s life is closed. This is the part of being a grown up they don’t tell you about.