Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Home Next Door.

Summer 2002

I had the privilege of growing up right next door to my Grandparents. While I wouldn't ever choose this for my own children, I couldn't imagine my life any different. Our homes were so close together than on a quiet summer day you could hear Grandpa sneezing from his easy chair. Now, Grandpa didn't have a delicate sneeze, but impressive nonetheless!

A little part of me is disappointed that I don't have many photos of the house with the furniture intact. I'm also bummed that I didn't get photos before the house was completely trashed. But the memories I have in my head are crystal clear and I like it better that way. Shall we tour?

Stepping through the side door you can go downstairs or hang left up a short flight into the kitchen. We'll start in the kitchen. Squat square glass jar of oatmeal cookies. Creamed peas and carrots. Cottage cheese and lime Jell-0 salad. Jell-o topped with cream cheese, Miracle Whip and walnuts. Stir-Crazy popcorn in an unwashed popper. Lemon meringue pie. Sour cream and raisin pie. Milk in a bag. Dr. Pepper. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Waldorf salad. Carrot salad. Chocolate milkshakes late at night after Grandpa had gone to sleep. Macaroni and cheese. Roast. Fried fish. Lefse. Formica table with yellow vinyl swivel chairs. Dominoes with Great Grandma Ella. Homemade playdough. Stuffed strawberry pincushion on the knick-knack shelf. Microwave always set with triple digit minutes. Nutty bars hidden in the pantry. Mouse traps set behind the garbage can. Strawberry jam.

Pass through the kitchen into the Dining Room. To the immediate left was Grandpa's desk and a seriously awesome rocking chair. The desk: metal address book that had a spring loaded latch. Aerial photo of the farm. Duck pencil sharpener. Telephone. Stamps. Scotch tape.
To the right was the rolltop hutch. This was where I played "office" and "school." I can remember the smell of it more than the contents. The sound of the rolltop sliding back. The feel of the green felt lining. The funny "half cup of coffee" cup.
The dining table. The chairs with their mustard yellow upholstery seats and springs that protested. Grandpa had his spot at the north end of the table, Grandma next to him at the west side, her back to the kitchen. I did love Grandma's food. I've never been able to accurately duplicate her creamed peas. There was always an abundance of food and yet I can never remember her coming home with more than a few bags of groceries from the IGA - a tiny grocer.
The buffet hutch. This held the fancy dishes. But most importantly - the candy stash. The snickers bars. Atop were pictures of grandkids and great-grandkids.
The sewing table- atop which sat a photo album with random photos. Wall hanging with a 5x7 picture of all her grandkids. Next to that was a cross-stitch my Mom had made with the name and birthdate of each grandkid.
At the south end, through a sliding door, was the porch. Aloe plant. Painted wind turbine made out of a 2-liter soda bottle. "Front door."

Back into the living room. Of course my best memories of the living room are Sunday morning fellowship meetings every Sunday from birth until I moved away. Grandpa in his easy chair reading National Geographic, the paper, his bible, Abraham Lincoln books, Alaska books, snoring. Grandma and Grandpa playing scrabble in the evenings. Ladybugs in the window sills. Finding the hidden needle in Country magazines. The cuckoo clock.
Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom was through a set of sliding doors at the north end of the room. Grandpa audibly praying morning and night. I have no other memory of their bedroom and love that.

Sliding doors to the east lead you into the "front room." The out-of-tune piano that only got played at Thanksgiving. The couch that filled your nose with dust when you sat down. Old encyclopedias. Front closet that was always a bit scary - this connected to the "real" front door that was never, ever used on the front poor that was never, ever used.

Up the stairs. At the left is the "red room." I never slept in this room and have no memories other than digging through the dresser drawers for "treasure." White nubby bedspread.

Down the long hall into the room that I slept in when I was older. Cabinet full of National Geographics with naked tribal folk. Windows that looked out into the farmyard. A dressing table.

Through the room and into another little hallway with an uneven floor. Large bathroom with a red heat lamp. Closet with treasures. Little cabinet in the wall next to the toilet with bottles of soaps that never got used. I loved that red heat lamp. Until we got our own at home. Then it lost its appeal!

Dressers in the hallway full of treasures. Broken organ. Door at the east end that entered into Great Grandma Ella's room. There were two double beds. I slept in here when I was younger. I would fall asleep every night with Great Grandma praying by her bed and wake every morning with her reading her Bible in the rocking chair.

Through that room into "Becky's Room." Fun closet full of treasures. Window looked out into the backyard. Old dolls. Doilies.

Down half a flight of steps, turn right and the attic door is above. This attic was amazing. Hours upon hours of playtime. Best fort ever. I can smell it right now.

Down the rest of the steps and into the kitchen. Hang left back down the steps and downstairs. The creepy, cold, cobwebby steps thick with Asian lady beetles in the spring, summer, fall. Washer and dryer at the bottom, a bathroom I didn't know existed for years, sink.

Into the laundry room. Two deep freezers. Great Grandma Ella running her hand through the ringer washing machine. Piles of treasure but never enough light to hunt. Didn't spend much time down here - quick ins and outs. I did mix milk replacer for my calves one summer. Lug the sloshing buckets back up the steps. The one summer I had calves.

Grandpa's workshop. Sawdust. Oil. Leather scraps. Wood-burning furnace.

The outside of the house: Hollyhocks, tiger lily's, bird-feeders, wishing well, blue windmill, the best tire swing ever, Grandma teaching us a game in the fresh snow, clothes-line whipping with sheets, gigantic lilac bush, strawberry patch, Great Grandma Ella in the garden until 94-years-old, both Grandmas washing root veggies under the outside faucet, 4th of July sparklers in the yard - giving Grandma a heart-attack.

I looked forward to Thanksgiving at the farm like most kids look forward to Christmas. I loved it. In retrospect, it was loads of work for my Mom and Grandma. But that doesn't dampen my enthusiasm! Everyone who could came down Wednesday Eve, the rest on Thursday morning. They stayed until Sunday afternoon. Lefse. Rook. Turkey and the fixin's. Pies. Fudge. Staying up till 4 a.m. Cousins. Scrabble. 20-questions. Getting measured for coffins. The Green Family. Bickering. Coloring. Food, food, food. Caramel corn. Divinity. Crayons in an old round tin. Coloring in the same coloring book year after year - writing name and age on each page colored. When "Thanksgiving" stopped, the family drifted apart.

I am more like Grandma than I care to admit. I inherited her worry. She would fret and fret and pace the house with worry. I do the same thing. She cared so much for everyone. Wanted to feed them. If you were mocking Grandma, you'd say "eat now!" I love to feed; I do. It used to seem like she was under Grandpa's thumb - waiting on him hand and foot. But I strongly believe she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Woman's rights? What a foolish notion! She waited on him because she loved him. After he passed away, she would tell the story of how they met with a sparkle in her eye and a bit of schoolgirl giddiness in her voice. Cutest thing ever.

I was afraid of Grandpa. Probably up until I gained his favor when I introduced him to my boyfriend at age 15. My boyfriend happened to be the great-grandson of his very best friend. Knowing that I was on the arm of Irene and John E's descendant made him so proud. Grandpa's stony facade melted with the introduction of great-grandchildren. He melted into a little puddle. I remember Nolan at age 2 playing with the wooden toys Grandpa had built in his workshop - it brought Grandpa to tears. He really was a softy in the very bottom of his heart. Especially when it came to the things of God. He truly loved what is the only lasting thing on this Earth.

So, it's the end of an era. I've loved thinking about memories there these last few weeks. I know they will fade with time, which is why I wanted to get them in print. But I'm so, so thankful that the spirit of the house and those who dwelt and communed in it will never fade.


Mindy said...

what an awesome post! made me think of my own grandma's house & also the meeting homes i spent so much time in as a girl. now, a couple of questions. getting measured for coffins?? and why wouldn't you want your kids to have this kind of childhood right next to grandma & grandpa? it seems like an ideal childhood.

MT Foners said...

AMAZING post Shannon, WELL DONE!!!! I don't remember it like you all do and I know I don't love it like you all do, but I did love what I did know!!!! Thanks for sharing!

Mimi/Susan said...

Beautiful post! I love to see old homes and think of the 'stories' they could tell if they could talk!

Lorene said...

thanks, shannon, i remember the day we moved into that house. your grandpa and grandma had us down for a meal. i grew up in that house, was married there, spent many wonderful times with my children and even grandchildren there. the things you mention are memories you will NEVER forget. i promise! i remember vividly many many things from before we moved to mn when i was 10.

Shannon said...

Mindy - Getting measured for coffins - only works if the person has never played the game. Have them lay down on the floor and close their eyes. You start measuring them limb by limb. You lift up a leg, measure, set it down and lift up the other leg - at this point you pour a glass of water down their leg!

Well, it was always a special occasion whenever the cousins came - Grandma got in a tizzy preparing etc. We just wandered over whenever and it was never a special deal. I always felt like something was lacking in the closeness if that makes sense. Plus, I love my in-laws to death, but I would never choose to live within a 100 feet of them!! I mean, imagine how tense it would get - the husband would always side with the wife rather than the parents. t-e-n-s-i-o-n!

Doro said...

Shannon that is one amazing piece of it! And the last paragraphs are profound. Much as we'd like to keep things the same, life is a moving thing!

Neisha said...

memories are the best!

Little Miss Nobody said...

Shannon ... what a touching post. I love how you described your memories just as they are ... the smells, the little things in a home that stay with you, and most of all the spirit of the inhabitants. Thanks for sharing your memories!

Angie Olson said...

Thanks Shannon, I want to share with you my own experience in that home. It never failed. Each time we would go there your G'pa would get started talking about his years in the work and your G'ma would sit there and stare at him like it was the first time she had ever heard it!! SOOOO beautiful. They loved each other to the fullest. I also felt the same spirit there as you did. Very powerful and strong! So thankful for the wonderful examples that have gone on before us. Divine love is stronger than anything!

katrina said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing. I know this touched your Dad as well as he mentioned it after meeting last Sunday. So glad for good memories of the faithful lives that inhabited this house.

Anita said...

Loved this post and the tour of the house, room by room, with memories. :)
I was in that house once but don't remember much about it. I do remember your grandparents. I think we had a noon meal there on sp mtg rounds.

Mj said...

many mtgs in that living room ( i was often very late)...good memories. some nice meals in the dining room, too. your g'parents were very hospitable and kind to me! thanks for this beautiful well written ( as usual) post, Shannon!!!!

Cheri said...

Those squat square cookie can come to my house and eat a cookie out of them any time!

I loved reading all the memories in the comments, and in hindsight I love how Grandpa and Grandma would have remembered everybody who had been to their home for a meeting or a meal. Grandpa would have told the story, and Grandma would have remembered the names when he couldn't come up with them! :)

Cheri said...
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Brad maddox said...