Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Grandma's house

I have moved a lot in my 37 years on this planet – as a child and an adult.  A house is a house – with the exception of the last home we owned in Buckley I was never sad to leave a house.  The last house in Buckley was a little bittersweet – for it was the closest place we lived that actually felt like it was our style – but even that was not our dream home.  It was a modest three bedroom tri-level – not an old Victorian home or an old farm house – but we decorated it more our style so it was harder to leave the house (and the community).  Then there is my Grandma’s home. . . .
Here I sit in her kitchen, typing this.  Her kitchen where 95% of all the holiday meals I have ever had were eaten.  Her kitchen where most of her days were spent either cleaning, cooking, reading the paper, having coffee with a neighbor, or playing cards at her table.  Grandpa wanted to build her a big kitchen so she had room to cook.  Her wooden cupboards with red countertops, the wooden buffet against the wall. . . this kitchen has changed very little in my lifetime.  
My Grandparents built their home in 1949, and they built the addition with the master bedroom, current kitchen, and backroom area’s in the mid 50’s (Grandma always said they built the addition right around the time my mom was born – so that would have been in 1956).  They built this home with their own hands.  They even made a lot of the blocks used to build the home themselves.  They were hardworking people who did their best – and 63 years later this home still stands.
Grandma loved her home.  She would go other places for trips and such – but her home was where she always longed to be.  Her home was her castle – built for her by her prince.  “It is so nice to be home” was what she said most of the time she walked through her back kitchen door.    Her home was where she felt safe, comfortable, and close to those she loved.  My Grandfather passed away after only 28 years of marriage, and she waited another 42 years to join him in the kingdom of God – yet she said many times that she felt close to him here in this house – that he built for her.
As a child I spent a lot of time here – sometimes fully living here and then during every vacation and summer that I could spend here.  Grandma’s house was where most of us grandkids preferred to be.  The white brick home with the gray (or blue depending on how far back you go in my lifetime) trim was the most beautiful home in the world.  When I would hear the news talk about “The White House” I honestly thought they were talking about my Grandma’s house – because I could think of no place as beautiful and spectacular as this little white block home.
Grandma’s house was my oasis, the closest thing I could think to heaven on this planet.  Grandma’s house was always warm and comfortable.  You walked through the door and you were greeted with love and a big sloppy wet kiss.  Your arrival was always a true joy – and most of the Grandkids longed for that.  At Grandma’s house you knew all your physical needs would be met – and you also knew your emotional needs would be met as well.  You were loved and cared for in a home that was always kept very clean and tidy.  You knew life would be full of joy and excitement – from Grandma making the small things exciting to the fun of a cousin you haven’t seen in a while stopping by to stay as well.  As a child – Grandma’s house was the best place on Earth to be.
As time progressed and we became adults, Grandma’s house was still our oasis.  We all knew that no matter what happened we would always a place that was welcoming that we could stay.  If we lost homes, if we lost jobs, if we lost significant others – Grandma would always welcome us with open arms and love.  Grandma would be here with her nutty dunker donuts, a cup of coffee, and she would share with our joys and cry with us during our hardships.  Grandma’s house that never seemed to change much – then we lost Grandma. . .
I will admit – part of me was very worried about staying up here this summer without Grandma.  Grandma had been gone for over a year now – and I know how much I missed just holding her hand and smelling her hair.  Would we be able to stay at her home?  Would I be too sad to allow the kids to have a good summer?  Would we be too creeped out at night to stay here?   Would I be able to figure out her 63 year old septic system, old kitchen stove, and water to be able to function here?  I had to try though – I had to try my best to offer my kids a little of what Grandma offered me – and I know that since April 11, 2011 I haven’t been able to give my children what they needed or deserved.
The arrival of the home was bumpy – for many reasons – but after a week we got the house up and running and figured out our routine and things went well.  We were in her home – trying to clean things up as best we could with four kids roaming around.  We have been in Grandma’s house for 3 ½ weeks now – and it is everything I remember it being.  The relaxation, the love, the joy – it is still here – not as much as when Grandma was here – but the essence of who she was is everywhere here.  The house honestly seems happy that we are here – as crazy as it sounds.  The house of love and joy – the security and stability that we always knew is still here – even the smell of Grandma lingers all around us.  And as crazy as this sounds, I swear at night when all the kids are quite you can hear the echoes of her feet walking across the kitchen floor.
I totally understand why Grandma loved her home so much – I am betting at night she could hear the echoes of my Grandpa walking through the back door and the laughter of young children playing in the yard.  Grandma’s castle. . . .
The future of my Grandma’s house really isn’t certain.  The house needs to be lived in by someone – someone with children to run around the yard and roll in the dirt – someone who will make Sunday dinners for their family and eat them in the kitchen.  Grandma’s house needs life in it to keep it alive – and if there isn’t life in it the home will crumble away. . . In a perfect world I would buy the home – do all the things that need to be done with it to make it last – and my family would spend every summer up here – but it isn’t a perfect world and we have four kids to raise, feed, clothe and put through college – and that is how Grandma would want it – “Your children come first.” 
Staying here at Grandma’s this summer has been a privilege.  I feel I have given my children something priceless.  I have given them a little bit of the legacy of Grandma.  The girls have even said how much they love their “Ghea’s house” and they wish we could live here all the time.  Grandma’s home will always feel like home to me.  As long as the home remains in the family I hope the kids and I will be able to spend summers here – the relaxed beauty of Northern Michigan life.  We are Michiganders – and no matter where we live we always will be Michiganders. . . but I will say this about my Grandma’s house – no matter how sad I would be to see it sold to someone outside the family it would be a sin to see the house sit empty and just crumble apart without the life it so needs in it. . . .   That is just my opinion. 

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