This is something I wrote years ago about my grandmother moving away from the home she lived in during my childhood. It was a house my grandfather partially built before he passed away when I was 16, and it was on five acres of wooded land in Springfield, OR.
This essay came up the other day in a conversation I had with someone, so I've pulled it out to share with the world. I hope you like it =-)
MEMORIES ARE IN THE MIND
My grandmother told me yesterday that she bought a new house. I know what follows. She is going to sell the old house that is the only place that I really consider "home." I had a rather migrant childhood, and the memories from that old house, with woods for a backyard, seem to be the only memories that I didn't get through a car window.
I can't think of any one interesting story that happened there because they all melt together into a collage of mostly happy times. There are no beginnings or endings to these memories, and I don't think I could find a climax within any of them, even if I tried. Nonetheless, in my lifetime, we had about eight Easter-egg hunts, fourteen summer vacations, and thirteen Christmases in that home. As I sit here trying to write about all the memories that fill my mind, it is a terrible strain even to describe the furniture, the rooms, or the smells, all of which I know so well. I can only try to turn them into words.
I guess my favorite part is the woods out back. I especially love their smell, because the air is thick with cedar scent. As I walk along the path, I move prickly, spider web-draped branches out of my way. They quickly snap back as my body passes by. My feet rustle through the moist ground that is blanketed with trampled twigs and pine needles. Passing by each well-trodden point in the path, I think I remember slices of my childhood. I know that I once chopped wood with Grandpa over there in that clearing, and I think that between those two trees is exactly where I once walked smack into a giant spider web, complete with a giant spider.
More than remembering particular happenings, though, I remember that those woods were a place for exploration, fantasy, and also a place that I could share with my family. I used to love to ramble through the maze of Douglas-firs and find hiding spots of little elves or of similarly tiny and fantastic creatures. But more special than anything else about the woods was that they belonged to my father and grandfather too.
I loved to roam the woods with Grandpa, looking for fallen trees to split into firewood with his wedge and sledgehammer. The hammer was big and heavy, and I must have been quite a sight, heaving that big old thing above my slight nine-year-old shoulders. But Grandpa was always patient as he watched me discover my own strength and power.
I also spent many hours exploring here with my daddy. He would point out mushrooms and flowers, and occasionally we would find beautifully crafted arrowheads, left behind long ago. Here both my grandfather and my father loved me and paid attention to me.
By mid-day, it is the warmest, and the sun is at its highest. But still it is not too bright here, below the trees, as their shadow covers the ground like a knit afghan, with just enough light streaming through the holes to let me know it is still day.
Leaving the woods behind now, I walk back up to the house. I go through the garage to get to the back door. Walking up the steps, they creak faintly under my feet. I can smell the familiar musty scent as only damp wood and cold mountain air can create. The door opens easily, and I step into the warm home where, at least in spirit, my grandfather is still alive and my parents are still married.
Just to my right is the bathroom that Grandpa always used to shave in. He had an old-fashioned cup of shaving cream and a big brush. He would swish the brush around in the cup and then cover his scruffy face with suds. To tell the truth though, I think for all the years I was alive, he used twin-blade disposable razors.
To my left is the room my brother and I used to sleep in. Straight ahead lies the kitchen, a favorite spot for all grandchildren. This was the place where we ate homemade blueberry hotcakes on Saturday mornings. It was also the site of the making of many batches of cookies, many fresh biscuits, and many luscious fruit pies. Grandma rolled everything out on that kitchen table with the old green plastic table cover. This is also where we stretched peanut brittle and frosted Christmas cookies, my two favorite things to make and eat.
That doorway leads to the living room and Grandma used to hang mistletoe there at Christmas time. Once I caught Uncle Norman under there and let him have it with a big slobbery kid kiss. Right through that doorway is Grandpa's chair, an overstuffed easy chair with a matching ottoman. He used to sit there and read the paper at night. Before bed I would climb into his lap and kiss his bald forehead goodnight.
There is a small cold hallway, with doors on either side, which leads from the living room to the master bedroom. I always think of that room as being cold. I guess that's because it was usually morning when I went in there. I used to love to wake up Grandma and Grandpa in the mornings. My grandfather was pretty Scotch and would always turn off the heat at night, which made for some cold mornings. I remember how the cold linoleum floor would burn against my bare feet, warm and swollen from a night of sound sleep.
On the bedroom wall hang three portraits, one of each of my grandmother's children. I remember one summer when my parents left my brother and me to stay there for two months. After the first month, I began to miss my mommy and daddy terribly. Every day of that month, I went into that room to stare at that High School portrait of my father. Sometimes I was sure that he blinked or even smiled at me.
The whole house and its grounds have become an anachronism for me, because they aren't so much a place of being anymore, but rather a place in time. The other day I broke down on the phone to a woman I love dearly, and who has lived in that home for over forty years. In those forty years, she raised three children, buried two parents and two in-laws, watched six grandchildren come into the world, and buried a beloved husband. This month she will move into a new house. There can be no doubt that her sorrow in leaving is much more complex than mine, but there can be none more poignant than that of a woman who sees her childhood sold, never to be seen again.
But memories are in the mind, aren't they?
— Alita Holly