I walked in the door and there, right at the moment I crossed over the threshold, the flashback hit me. So quick! My eyes spotted the kitchen island holding the teapot. That teapot has been around my whole life. All 52 years and who knows how many before. I can't tell you if it's black or really dark brown, but it has red flowers of a sort on it. It's distinct, so it's not like I'm mistaken. Nope this is the teapot that was always used to make the tea.. unsweetened tea that we repeatedly and totally unsuccessfully, tried to sweeten in our glasses. And since sugar won't dissolve in cold water, we always had a big thick stack of sugar sitting in the bottom of the Fostoria glasses.
The Fostoria.. When you go get a glass, that's just what you get. And yes, they're still there. Some in the china cabinet that has been in that exact location as long as I remember, and some in the kitchen cabinet, next to the brown bowls, next to the gray coffee cups, near the gold trimmed, floral-painted, just the right size for ice cream dessert bowls. Where they've been my WHOLE life... and this is the 2nd set of built-in cabinets, but the dish storage remained the same. I remember (barely) when the first new sink and the built-in cabinets came... I was born in 1961. A few years have passed.
I'm at my grandmother's house. Let me work through the math... My grandmother died in 1995 (maybe 96) and was 79 years old. She would be about 96 now. The house was built when she was 10, if memory serves me right. That would put it about 1927. My great grandfather worked the railroad and always had work during the depression. My "Granny" (great-grandmother) fed hungry folks on the front porch. She always had some "extra".
My father was raised in that house. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother moved the 2 of them in with her mother. Somewhere along the way, my great grandfather died and Grandmothers siblings grew up and moved on, as did my dad, leaving my Granny and Grandmother living together. My grandmother was working woman and kept that house in tip-top operating shape. When she died, her younger sister moved in, bringing many of her own things, but thankfully, keeping many of the old treasures.
When I married, my grandmother gave me 6 sets of her china with the promise of me receiving the rest upon her death. The china had been purchased bit by bit from Woolworth's. Grandmother's promise was kept and when I was home for her funeral, Aunt Betty gave me the rest of the china. She didn't like seeing it leave the house, but she sent me home with it anyway, honoring my grandmother's wish.
I'm back in town now because Aunt Betty is dying. It hasn't been a long process. Thanksgiving she was "fine" - having some back pain, but "fine". She didn't really know (or want to know) until very recently that she was full of untreatable cancer. It's all been very fast. So I'm home. I want to say "Goodbye" to her face. It's a joy, a privilege. I'm going to miss her, but it is an honor to get to help see her off. I've massaged her arms, wet her lips, offered water (such tiny sips), sung to her, looked deep in her eyes and told her I love her and thanked her for loving me. What more can you do?
I've roamed through the house today, and, with my daddy, laughed and laughed as we found beautiful reminders of who Grandmother was. She's the one who ran that house for so long and her fingerprints are all over it. The boxes, paper boxes from the office, neatly packed with items - this and that, then tied with string, each carefully labeled and the contents actually match the label... after all this time! She wasn't a hoarder by any stretch. Her house was uncluttered. But she saved things. Funny things. She didn't waste anything. One box was tied with several pieces of ribbon patched together with knots to make it long enough. Another contained perfectly shaped, non-smashed bows from packages (how I remember her neatly cutting them off the wrapping w/ little scissors!), ornaments (and Christmas lights! so vintage they're actually vintage!), her nativity set that my brother always played with, a picture (just one) of my Granddaddy (her ex husband), my wedding invitation - in perfect condition, with the invite to the rehearsal dinner and the placard and my thank you note. I even heard that they found (this week) a pair of her stockings in a neat piece of plastic labeled "Do not wear. Hole in toe." Now, why oh why did this neatie keep that? To tie up the roses? She died 17 years ago. My. My.
The Pollyanna Game we played. Have you played Pollyanna? This one has wooden pieces. The Old Maid set labeled "full deck". The carefully wrapped saw (to protect you from the blade, you know). Her bed in its always place. There is more stuff in the house now, since Betty moved in 17 years ago, but the old stuff is still there and in pristine condition. Most of it doesn't matter to anyone, I guess. I want my brother to have that nativity. I hope for the table linens for my son's wedding., but I've been given the china already, so I don't want to be greedy. I'm thrilled my daddy was there to identify his old art box - no, no paint in it, but rather paintings he did when he was a boy! Oh boy! The real treasure is all of the memories. Sliding down the stairs. Pasting Wildlife Federation Stamps into a spiral book (Grandmother's idea of fun for kids). The comfort of knowing where to look for a glass and what it will look like and feel like. The scrambled eggs, served in a small bowl that never, ever stuck to the iron skillet.
She is gone, but her life has continued with us in our wonderful memories. Betty will go, too. But these beloved people will not be forgotten. I've shared them with you and you will help me remember.
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