Friday, July 9, 2010

Grandma's House

My grandma lives on Ivy Street in Denver. She has lived in her ranch home since it was built in 1949. Now 61 years later, she is moving on Monday.

My Grandpa Spears was a chiropractor, and his brother was a chiropractor. They moved out to Denver from the bayous of Florida to work at the chiropractic clinic of their uncle who was a chiropractor.

It grew into this, a great big chiropractic hospital. (This needs a book in and of itself.) Later my three uncles became chiropractors and worked here, while my aunts worked in reception. On the grounds of the hospital were swings and statues and even a baseball diamond. And at the end of the grounds, on the other side of the baseball diamond, sat my grandparents' house.

My father would try to teach his hopeless daughters how to play ball on the diamond before we'd be called over for many a picnic to begin. The porch was long, perfect for long tables of burgers and potato salad that we'd devour in blue-weave rockers on the porch.

The roof of the house always busy with squirrels. My grandfather would feed them peanuts, and I remember thinking my grandfather must be a kind man, even though he grew up eating squirrel in Florida. They'd jump from the long limbs of the trees and scurry over the roof, peering down at us in the rockers on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

All along the wire fence that separated the ball field from their home, was a vegetable garden. My grandpa tended the vegetables, while my grandma tended the roses. There were monstrous rhubarb plants that my grandma would make into strawberry-rhubarb pie. Vines heavy with green grapes wound themselves all through the fence, though I never detected them being put to any use other than to make the grandkids krinkle their noses at their sour taste.

Before my grandmother lost her eyesight, whenever we visited we'd find her in the garden, pruning her roses with the radio on in the kitchen.

In the kitchen, there was a large elf head on the fridge. It must have been a cookie jar, but I never did know what that thing was. There was always a non-elf-head cookie jar on the counter with Chips A'hoy for the kids. On the fridge, there were the magnets from the places my grandparents had visited together before my grandpa died.

Above the stairway to the basement was a big mounted buck head that my grandpa must have shot at some point. I'd stare at it, wondering if it would blink at me, and if I ever had to go to the basement, I'd pound down the stairs as fast as I could in case the deer decided to drop on me for vengeance.

The basement was cool and filled with old things. There was a fridge that held my grandpa's pickles and spare packs of beer. In one of the basement bedrooms, there was a mini-door halfway up a wall. I imagined I was Nancy Drew and could unravel the great mysteries it no doubt hid, such as dead bodies.

The garage was where my grandpa would put his big barrels of oysters from Florida. He'd sit with his friends in the garage and shuck oysters and eat them raw. I never saw this, but my mom's descriptions of the slimy beasties was vivid enough that I can't picture the garage without seeing my grandpa sitting on an oyster barrel sucking the juice off a half shell.

The dining room is where we spent all our time. I don't know how many hours of my life I've spent sitting at the long dining table for birthdays, Thanksgivings, Easters, and Christmases, the only change being the color of the floral arrangement. I liked to sit across from the wall with the pictures of my mom's family. Seven little frames each holding 60's pictures of my mom's siblings. Aunt Carol. Uncle Ray. Uncle Dick. Mom. Aunt Cin. Uncle Charlie. Aunt Debbie. I would stare at my mom's beautiful 60's face and wonder if I would ever look like her.

Down the back hallway of the house were rows of rooms, added on as kids were added, like flapjacks on a stack. Each room had a diferent texture in the paint on the walls. One was pines. One was daisies. One was roses. It was like discovering something grand and secret. I'd trace the lines of the ridges with my finger and wonder who had put them there.

The hallway was lined on one side with floor-length windows that looked out to the backyard. The cousins would play back here when it was too cold outside or when the porch was full of big people who scared me.

By far the best room to play in was the bathroom across from the wall of windows. It was tiled utterly in pink. It had dual sinks, which made me think my grandparents must be millionaires. But even better, there were little mirrors in the wall, and if you pushed on them, they'd swivel around to reveal toothbrush and glass holders on the other side. Clearly, my grandparents were millionaries. The swively toothbrush holders were as good to me as a secret hiding place to a Nazi lair.

Once we tired of turning the toothbrush holders, we would sit in the front entrance to the home by the book shelves. My grandparents had the Encyclopedia Britannica, and it was the most marvelous thing I'd ever touched. Imagine, anything I wanted to know about, say Zanzibar, I could just look up in one of their big volumes and see pictures and read the history. They also had little statues in the entrance, one with three tastefully nude women. I would steal glances at their beautiful forms, both thrilled and scandalized that my grandparents would house such a thing.

I loved when the doorbell would ring. A deep, throaty bell chime would sound. It was always one more relative or friend to crowd into the home. With seven children and a staff of a hospital, there were always plenty of people around.

Lately, the picture has been different. My powder-white haired grandma sits in her chair in the front room, scootched close to the TV. She hasn't been able to prune the roses or bake rhubarb pies for many years. The sounds of the home have long been going silent. Now they will live in our minds--the sounds of a home and a family and a life.


Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes. All things live as long as they live in one person's memory. Your vivid words transported me to those happy times. I could almost taste, hear and touch them. What joy God has given us!

Kelly said...

Very touching story, Amber.

Tara said...

What a nice reflection of our childhood and grandma and grandpa's house. I loved the old coffee table that was in the living room. Little children statues held up the actual table. And the cookies, oh the cookies!! That jar was never empty even with all of the grandkids around!

brooke said...

precious memories .. love to them both


Anonymous said...

I bet that my grandkids-if they were asked now-would remember the dog and the toys in the basement-and grandpa. My memories of my grandparents have to do with dinners and rooms-just like yours. NV