As far back as I can remember, my grandparent’s house was old. The rooms were too small and too few in number, and thanks to the wood paneling, kind of dark and gloomy. There was a floor-to-ceiling space heater attached to the wall in the living room. It was the only source of heat in the place. To keep the upstairs warm enough meant the first floor could put any sauna in any spa to shame. Sometimes, you had to step outside just to breathe cooler air for a minute.
The kitchen, barely big enough for an octagonal table in the corner, was the place to be when you were visiting. The crowds that room could hold were a sight to behold. So were the curtains, which clashed mightily with the wallpaper.
That was the room where Grandpa did his best to make sure you wouldn’t leave hungry. You could have eaten a ten-course meal just before you got there, but as far as he was concerned, you were still underfed and he wasn’t happy until he’d
forced gotten you to eat something.
He also made sure the neighborhood squirrels didn’t starve either. There was always a package of peanut butter sandwich cookies on the counter just for them, and they were so well trained they’d take them from his hand when he was outside. When he wasn’t, they’d scratch on the window over the sink until he opened it and gave them their treat.
It was in their bathroom that my two year old brother gave their ‘kitty’ a bath (in toilet, lid down, flush), where I – as a toddler – knew my grandma kept the yummy smelling bottle of vanilla in the lower cupboard. In case you’ve ever wondered, vanilla straight out of the bottle tastes really bad. It was where the huge bush in one corner of the fence provided a super cool secret hideout.
We had picnics and potlucks there, played with an arthritic wiener dog named Charlie Brown (who was Grandma’s self-appointed protector), and crammed into every nook and cranny like human sardines on each Christmas Eve.
But you know what? I never once noticed that the curtains didn’t match the wallpaper until after they’d died and my sister and I were looking through old pictures. I never saw that the house was old and dark.
That was where I think we all felt most loved, where we had the most fun, and it’s the place I miss the most when I think back to my childhood. Because it’s where everyone we cared about hung out.
And it wasn’t because of the house either. It was just – home. It was where Grandpa and Grandma lived. They truly were the heart of our family and sometimes it makes me sad that most of us have drifted apart.
Of course, we still have the family reunion and Christmas party every year, but mostly we only know what’s going on in one another’s lives because of Facebook. It’s like a pale imitation of what used to be. And while my head understands that everyone grew up, that we all have busy lives, my heart misses them just the same.