It really wasn’t real to me until the moment I ran smack dab into the door. I bounded up the three steps from the mudroom to the kitchen door like I had done countless times before.
I didn’t even think about it. It’s just muscle memory. Bound up the steps, twist and push and say “Hi Gram!” Except I bounded up the three steps, turned the knob, and drove my body directly into the door. Hard.
The door, solid wood with intricate leaded glass, didn’t budge. It’s a very good door.
My mother, standing on the floor below, just shook her head and handed me a key. A key to the door of my Grandmother’s house? A door that throughout my entire life to date I had no idea even had a lock.
She passed away last year and now the door is locked.
It is said that houses hold memories. I believe that. I think some people see a home as simply a place to keep their things. There are certainly people who move every few years if not every few decades.
Nothing wrong with that. Their families are strong and their memories are true.
But then there are another type of people. They settle. They stay. I come from a long line of stayers. They pick a house, settle in, and live there for 60 or 70 years.
Generations put their stamp on these homes. I have lived in our current home for 20 years, and due to my background, it still feels “new” to me.
When we moved here in 1996, my grandmother was my greatest advocate.
I remember lamenting, maybe five years in, with small children underfoot that it would never be “done.” She laughed and said” I’ve been here since 1954 honey and my house isn’t done yet.” To me it always felt perfectly done.
My Gram has been gone from this earth for nine months now. Apparently the length of time it takes to build a life may also be the length of time it takes to dismantle one.
We were blessed as a family to have the luxury of time in settling her household.
For nine months now the house has sat. Clock ticking, radio silent, percolator dry. These last months are undoubtedly the first time the house has gone unoccupied overnight since they moved in more than sixty years earlier.
We walk through and spark memories among laughter and tears. Endless Sunday and holiday dinners, special birthday cakes for each of us, snow puddles and hay chaff stomped off by the kitchen door.
The best spring water you’ve ever tasted in your life. The steepest stairs (we should all be serious mountain climbers due entirely to our formative years spent learning to climb up and down those stairs).
The heavy cast iron registers that blew hot air and granddaughter’s “spinny dresses.”
The tricky bathroom light switch that for some reason is located on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom door.
This prompted one grandson-in-law to note that you knew you were family when someone FINALLY told you where the light switch was so you didn’t have feel your way around the bathroom in the dark every time you visited.
Still we kept stopping by and not taking anything out with us. We would lay claim and say “I’ll get that later.” No one ever seemed to have the heart to turn later into now. Now my mother is slowly insistent.
She sends home cake pans and portraits from the walls. I walk through my house and touch these talismans of my grandmother’s home and I know exactly where they “should” be.
As much as I am honored to have them, where they “should” be is not here. I know my grandmother would not want her home enshrined like this.
The walls and floors will echo with the noises of someone else’s lives and families. There won’t always be a table in the dining room having sat so long that it has slowly sunk into the carpet, perhaps even into the floorboards below.
That drawer won’t always hold the hand lotion, and the pens. We won’t always reach into that cupboard for the cocoa and the crackers, but never the cookies. Cookies were homemade. Always in a crock on the counter.
These things will slowly be moved on and away. Today I have a portrait from her dining room and an entire set of spoons. I layer them into our lives here and think that I need to lock in my memories like we now do that door.
Somebody is certainly going to remodel the house. They will fix the floorboards and relocate that light switch. To them it will be an improvement. To us it just won’t be the same house at all.