Growing up I had always hoped that one day I would inherit grandma’s house. I loved that house even though I was scared to death of the basement. I spent a lot of my childhood there and thought that it would be mine someday. Things do not always work out that way though and instead of living there when I grew up- I watched the house get sold. Grandma moved into an apartment and then eventually a nursing home. To this day I drive past her house and wish it was still in the family.
After my parents’ divorce I was babysat by my grandma on a regular basis while mom went to work at Robertson’s Department Store. I was going to the local Hebrew Day School and though it was neat getting to see my cousin Shellie every day in class I really did not like it there. But getting to stay with Grandma on a regular basis was great. I would come in the house to the foyer with tiny aqua and tan tiles on the floor and sniff in the familiar scent of her house. Grandma taught me how to tap dance on that tiled floor.
She’d give me a big hug and kiss and we’d go hang out in the kitchen. I would sit at the kitchen table with my coloring book and crayons and watch TV while Grandma would cook dinner. Grandma and I would go for walks around the block in the evening after dinner. She would stop and chat with her friends in the neighborhood and I would sit quietly and listen to their gossip and stories. By the time we got back to the house it was late and usually mom would be there to pick me up and take me home.
After my parents divorce, the house became a trading point between my parents. Dad would come pick me up there and take me for the weekend.
The living room was one of my favorite rooms to play in. There was this cool kidney shaped desk that I used to pretend I was working in an office. It also had a good hiding spot under it for those games of hide-and-seek. Grandpa was usually sitting in his chair.
I particularly liked to play the piano. I loved playing songs from “Mary Poppins” and “Annie”. I also remember learning the song, “On Top of Spaghetti”. Grandma would eventually tell me, “That’s enough” and I’d go play in the basement. Grandpa’s cancer was taking its toll and the plinking on the piano was not doing him any favors.
Sometimes I would go down into the basement and play with all the old toys that had accumulated there from my mom and her siblings and the many cousins. I would play in the back yard and snack on raspberries off the bush against the fence. I was always good at entertaining myself and could sit and color for hours. Being at Grandma’s house was always a peaceful place to be for me.
There were many times that I slept over at Grandma’s house. And I almost always slept in the bedroom with the bamboo wallpaper against the exterior wall of the house. She had all kinds of artwork on the walls from her many travels with my grandpa around the world. They kind of scared me, but I’d look at them every time. I would lay there watching the headlights from the road travel around the room till I fell asleep.
When I would get up in the morning I was always trying to sneak downstairs without making a sound. I’d slide down the banister to minimize the sounds of the creaking steps. It’s a miracle that I never hurt myself doing that. Once downstairs I’d help myself to whatever cookies grandma had on top of the refrigerator. Sometimes there were good ones like the chocolate covered graham cookies or Oreos. Other times there were just the chocolate covered marshmallow treats that I didn’t care for. I’m sure I got my love for sweets from my grandma. Then I would have some cereal and sit down and watch the morning cartoons till the rest of the house awoke.
When we would have big family gatherings it was at her house. The adults would sit in the dining room at the big table and the kids would be in the kitchen at the table there. Then we’d run off to go play in the basement some more. We played hide and seek on a regular basis. It still amazes me that grandma didn’t get annoyed when we’d hide in her closets and cupboards and knock things off the hangers. I had my favorite places to hide- the back of her bedroom closets, under beds, and in the scary basement. My favorite hiding spot was behind the bar. I was afraid of the basement for two reasons. First of all, there was this weird air vent fan that was in the main room of the play area. One time a bird had gotten stuck in there and while I was playing it flapped around a few times. It startled me and for years after that I would stare at the vent intently making sure no birds were in there waiting to scare me again. Secondly the basement had an area with wood paneling that hid the furnace and hot water heater. This area had a panel that you could open to come out into the play area. I was always a little scared that someone or something would pop out of the dark recesses to “get” me.
All in all, there were a lot of special, yet seemingly ordinary moments that I shared with my Grandma in that house. Every time I travel past her house I tear up a bit at the thought that she’s no longer there. But the house and the memories of family will always have a very special corner of my heart.