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.
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.