Monthly Archives: December 2020

goodbye to grandmother’s house

said goodbye to my grandmother’s house tonight

in the pouring rain, doors locked, lights off, curtains drawn so nary a peek inside

just me and the husband on the carport, and I didn’t even spend much time on the carport, really, just a place to pass through to get to the door to step inside and wipe your feet on the mat

and then turn the corner and you’re in the knotty pine kitchen and there’s grits or carrots or soup on the stove and crackers and dips on the counter and probably cookies somewhere if you poke around and the room is warm and the light is bright and the dishwasher is old as dirt and not ever plugged in

and the calendar is chock full with lines stretching the lengths of weeks for people’s trips, and scribbled doctor’s appointments, and everyone’s birthdays (which were there first, which baptized the calendar when it first heralded the new year coming)

and don’t forget the fridge, or really the magnet display, with everywhere they’ve been and then some

anyway then you step through the door and there on the left is the living room with its enormous fireplace flanked by enormous bookshelves filled with treasures new and old, let alone the other old books scattered across tables amidst knick knacks and my great-grandfather’s cadet picture, and there’s the table where the Christmas tree would be with its old pie plate ornament, and the moose, good Lord, where do you even start with the moose

and the lobster trap

and the carpet is new and blue but if you were to take all the books off the enormous bookshelves and move them you’d see where the new carpet ends and the old bluish-and-greenish carpet still rests under the bookshelves, because moving them should only happen in case of, well, death

and it was old and worn smooth

and look up past the hummingbird light pull to the ceiling with its bolts and washers from that time the pipes burst and they had to reinforce the plaster and, well, it worked

then down the hallway lined with baby photos and old silhouettes and on the left there’s the bedroom with its twin beds where my sisters and I would lie while Grandmother sat in the little old chair in between them and tell stories about the rabbits, whose names I remember and tell to my daughters, or the Great White Wooly Wugga-Wuggas whose names I have forgotten but whom I can still picture in my head, great fluffy things with soft brown faces, and she’d sing songs in a voice I didn’t know was off-key, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” (and they sang it wrong in England, and I put a footnote about it in my thesis) and then we’d go to sleep

in the room that had been my mother’s, with the door still littered with ribbons from football pep rallies and old Doonesbury comic strips and nametags from competitions and all sorts of things that were as familiar to me as the wood behind them before I could even read, whose meanings I discovered much later

and then the end of the hall, with the pink bathroom right in front of you and there’s the tub we washed in when we were little that didn’t have a shower attached and I used to wonder where the shower curtain was, with the clothesline strung over it for drying towels, and the vanity with lights over it installed twenty years after my mom spent half an hour squinting into the mirror trying to put on her makeup for prom

and on the left was the den, with Granddaddy’s perfect long chair that they gave away without asking any of us, and the pullout couch where we slept later on (and which spent six months in my garage before I finally found someone to haul it away to be donated, the blasted thing) that I saw again every time I watched the old Crit Role intro, and the rug in the middle, and sometimes Granddaddy’s step-er-cise thing with the pulleys that were so fun to pull, and we spent so many holidays piled up on that couch, watching TV after stuffing ourselves

oh and if you leaned over the arm of Granddaddy’s perfect long chair you could reach the bookshelf and I don’t ever remember asking permission to pluck Animal Babies from the shelf but I definitely did, plopping it open on my lap and  learning about okapi long before we even had any in our zoos (and I thought they were small because they lived with the pygmies, but they’re big, guys, they’re pretty big)

but sometimes you could only sit on the couch and read Reader’s Digest because Granddaddy was watching The Weather Channel

back when it only showed, you know, the weather

and then across the end of the hall was their room, where I napped once or twice, or occasionally set a baby down for a nap, stealing glimpses of my grandmother’s engagement photos, pretty much the only time you’d ever see a picture of her without her glasses

and then when it’s time to go we’d go to the den and kiss Granddaddy’s whiskers and then troop back down the hall to the kitchen and there’d always always be peanut butter crackers to be pressed into our hands to be eaten on the long car ride home

winding along the twisty two-lane road with the trees reaching out overhead, the side of the mountain falling away to our left, and then suddenly the lights of the city spread out twinkling before us between the branches of the trees, mostly yellow but here white or red or green, the valley at our feet wending its way towards the river

and tonight as I drove down that misty foggy mountain road I fumbled with my CDs because sometimes music has to say what our hearts are too full to mention

and along the way to the track I wanted I hit upon this one, in all its perfection

and just this week on Christmas Day as my granddaddy left my house I said, “see you later, alligator”

and without missing a beat he said, “after ‘while, crocodile”

as he always did when we left their house, the two of them standing there waving until we’d gone around the block, out of sight

(and I haven’t even touched on the yard, with its one dogwood so perfect for perching in, with its tangles and thickets and acorns and silence)

but they weren’t there when I left tonight, and that is, after all, why I was leaving it

for the last time

it’s not the same and it hasn’t been the same and all the same I cried my way to the base of the mountain while Mumford and Sons said what I could not.

we’ll all be together again, some day, God willing (it’s not his will we have to worry about; it’s our own)

and they’ll all go out to meet her when she comes

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