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23 November 2006

V is for...

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Vacant.

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Grandma and Grandpa's house.  I miss them.  Grandpa died a few years ago and Grandma has been getting more and more lost.  She recently dislocated her hip again, after falling while wandering the halls where she lives.  She doesn't know where she is.  She will be 94 on Christmas Eve.

There were many, many holiday meals in that dining room.  The grown-ups around the big table, card tables set up for the kids.  My grandparents had six children and nine grandchildren.  We are lucky enough that there have even been meals with great grandchildren around the "kids' table."

I remember my sister Sharon being made to sit at that table until she finished her mashed potatoes.  I know... it was Christmas (or whatever)... and she didn't like mashed potatoes... but there were children starving in Africa.

I remember my kids and nieces and nephews, spending much of a Christmas afternoon building and decorating a gingerbread house, which we then had for dessert!  That little activity was one of my few-and-far-between strokes of genius!  Mothers, take note:  The kids were kept occupied and they had fun and they could slip a piece of candy or lick frosting from their fingers, there was little-to-no whining about when-this and how-come-that!  What's not to love?

I remember my Uncle Jimmy coming home from his first year away at college.  His hair was longer.  A lot, lot longer.  He wore a braided leather headband.  We listened to Cat Stevens records and played board games in the music room.  Grandma asked him to say the before-meal prayer and he stood up, almost shouting:

Rub-a-dub-dub
Thanks for the grub
Yay God!

Well, yeah!  Grandma was... "stunned" is a good word.  It kinda blew us all away!  Grandma always thought more carefully, weighing potential risks, about who she assigned that task to from then on.  We remember it, warmly, and laugh at every single holiday meal.  "Remember the time when Uncle Jimmy..."

I've written about my grandparents' house a few times.  It is very, very old.  During the '30s and '40s, a doctor lived in the house and it also served as the "hospital."  When I assisted at a rummage sale there a couple of years ago, lots of people came just because they wanted to see the house.  One woman asked, "Do you know which was the Birthing Room? I was born in that room."  I didn't really know which was the Birthing Room, but I gave her my best guess(es).  All I really knew about the use of rooms at that time is that Grandma's "dining room" was the "operating room."  Another man had a little blast from the past as he walked up the back steps, remembering the same walk some 70 years earlier when he'd come to have his tonsils removed.

My favorite room was always the music room.  It could be accessed from the vestibule, had sliding doors to the living room, and there was also a door to another adjoining (possibly the "birthing" room).  My dad built a huge book case and cabinet surrounding the window on the entire east wall; it held books, of course, and also the stereo and record collection.  I used to spend hours in that room when we visited, with the doors closed, listening to records and looking at Grandma's old photo albums.  I memorized every word of Jesus Christ Superstar in that room.  One Easter at Grandma's, there was a little scavenger hunt for us to find our baskets.  The last clue led me to the music cabinet where I found a "45" of Don MacLean's American Pie nestled among the jelly beans in my basket.

The room that adjoined the music room was occupied by my great grandfather, Grandma's dad, until he died.  He loved doing jigsaw puzzles and my sister Karen would often help him; in high school, she worked at a nursing home, the only one of us who ever did.  I was always a little scared of Great Grandpa, he was old and thin and quiet and whiskery, and I didn't know what quite what to make of the well-read Bible alongside the Playboy magazines on his shelf.  During a family meeting in the music room once, my brother Mike and a cousin carpeted the entire living room floor with Playboy centerfolds, giving Grandma quite a shock as she emerged from the room!

Those two rooms were later used as showroom, classroom and studio for many years after Grandma retired from the bank and taught ceramics or painted.  She had huge kilns in the basement, shelves and shelves of plaster molds and tools, glazes, greenware, bisque, books and trade rags, buckets and boxes of slip and clay.  After Grandpa retired, he did all the pouring and took great pride in doing it well; he liked the compliments of the ladies, Grandma's students.  Grandma was a prolific painter, as well, generally watercolor, mostly scenes from the lake.

I always loved the attic in that house.  It was a walk-in attic, in the space above the dining room and kitchen, accessible through a small door in the upstairs bathroom.  It was fascinating -- all that stuff.  Furniture, clothing, books, paperwork, holiday decorations.  I remember finding a really cool old vintage coat, way back in my high school days, that Grandma let me have -- it was wool and pink and had a huge, decorative button.

It was interesting to me that my grandparents did not share a bedroom.  They had adjoining rooms, though, hers a little bigger and only a tiny bit frillier than his -- Priscilla curtains at the windows.  They would share Grandma's bed if the house was full and they needed Grandpa's bed; it was the same at the cottage.  I remember Grandma's dresser with all the Avon jars and bottles, her jewelry box and earring tree.

The most flattering full-length mirror in the world was at the end of the upstairs hall.  I used to hike up my skirt and do the runway walk -- oh, if only my legs really were that long and thin!  I remember mentioning the magical mirror to Grandma once and she laughed, "Oh, you mean I don't really look as good as I think I do?"

I am thankful for family, thankful for memory, thankful for friends -- friends like you.  Thank you.  Thanksgiving.  Rub-a-dub-dub...

Comments

What fabulous memories and a fantastic house. Thanks for sharing.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for sharing your family with us. Nice memories.

Thankyou. Stunning photographs, amazing writing. You've brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my skin. What an amazing family!

Thank you for YOU.

Hey Vicki. This is my kind of post. But you knew that already. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of this house and your family. My grandparents shared a bedroom but had twin beds. And I had completely forgotten that until I read this so thanks for bringing it all back to me.
Hugs, girlfriend.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Vicki. I'm thankful for you too! That was an incredible story! And memorizing Jesus Christ Superstar is no small feat (I learned in my basement) ;-)

Enjoy your family and your memories this Thanksgibing. I love that you share them with us.

This is a wonderful post, Vicki. What a sight that must have been when your grandmother walked into those centerfolds! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving -- I am thankful to have met you in person this year!!

You've brought a tear to my eye! Or it could be bread crumbs from the stuffing frenzy I am taking a break from!
:)
Happy, Happy Thanksgiving Dear Vicki!
xoxo

I want to come over. I want to live in that house. I want to go through the bookshelves and sniff all the bottles on your Grandma's dresser. I want to hang out with Jimmy.

happy Thanksgiving Vicki!

Thank you so much for this. You filled up my heart with memories of my grandparents (gone 3 years now) and good family times.

V is also for Vicki, whose warmth and humor and gentle spirit I am thankful for today.

Vacant? You mean no one's bought it?
I would be first in line. It sounds fabulous.
You brought back a lot of memories, the 'kids table', Jesus Christ Superstar and my own grandparents house on Christmas Day. How things have changed. We are such a small group these days, no kid's table required.
Have a great Thanksgiving, Vicki.

What a lovely post, Vicki. Thanks for sharing all those beautiful memories. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a lovely Thanksgiving.

What beautiful memories!
Happy Thanksgiving.

You truly captured that 'vacant' feeling with your pictures. Happy Thanksgiving to you Vicki! I hope it was a wonderful family day for you and yours.

Vicki - thank you for sharing such a beautiful story. There is something magical about grandparents' houses, no matter how big or how small.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

Wow. Just wow. Thank you. Hope you had a great, family-filled day.

Sweet memories. I enjoyed reading them.

What a fabulous life you had with your grandparents and that house! And, what a house! It is the quintessential Midwest dream home, complete with attic full of old stuff. I thought these houses and stories existed only in books. Does the house remain in the family?? My grandma died at 94, without much of a memory anymore. How very sad that your grandma doesn't really know where she is--especially since she had such a very rich life. I treasure every minute I spent with my grandmother, talking about the things she did remember. Your story has stirred my memories as well.

What a lovely post! Thank you for sharing your family and memories with us. It reminded me of my grandparents; not that they were as much fun as yours, but I loved them dearly.

Well... I'm jealous! I love to see these types of photos and hear all of the awesome stories that come with it.

I never really had the chance to get to know my Grandparents on my Mom's side... and had Grandma lived a little longer.. I would also have some amazing stories to share.

I think it's just so great that people came up to the house and wanted to see certain rooms... what an amazing opportunity to meet some awesome people.

Thanks for sharing!!

Oh, Vicki, what a fabulous, heartwarming post... though poignant that the house with so many loving memories now stands vacant. hug your granny every chance you get...

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