Thursday, July 05, 2007

Over The River...

I've been dreaming of my Grandmother's house at night. I know that house very well. I know where my father's teenage Chuck Taylor footprint on the sheetrock is hiding under wood paneling, left from when he and my uncle were building the house with my Grandfather. I know the patchwork pattern of the tile my Grandfather used in the downstairs basement shower that became my bathroom shower when I attended Oregon State. I know the heating ductwork where he put his "Hello My Name Is" nametags from the various events he attended as a chemistry professor for Oregon State. I added my own to the collection. I know which rooms my Dad slept in as a teenager. I know the blue room upstairs with its light blue paneling and light blue shag carpet; that was my Aunt Lila's room. I thought it was the most beautiful room in the world when I was a child. I know where Grandma kept her tools. I know the Gardening room, the Wood room, the Bike Room (where I hung my bike on the same bike pulley sysem my Grandfather used to hang his bike--the same bike he once got a speeding ticket on as he raced across the Oregon State Campus), and the tool benches in the garage--left pretty much as my Grandfather left them when he lost his lymphoma battle when I was sixteen.

I'm seeing different parts of the house in my dream. The room divider in the living room where my Grandma stored knickknacks. The drawer that housed all of her Pyrex. The drawer that housed all of the cookie sheets and cake pans. Every thing in the kitchen was custom made by my grandfather to her specifications. I see the knife slots for each individual knife, the sections in the drawers for kitchen utensils separated by size and function, the drawers for her linens and tablecloths, the cupboard with the cookie jar and the corny poster that said "My Grandma is the best by far, for she has got a Cookie Jar!" (I loved that poster!) on the inside of the door, the under cabinet fluorescent lights. I see the double closet that still held many of my Grandfather's clothes and also his filing cabinets in what became the boys room. I see the storeroom under the stairs that held the old games and toys my brother and sisters and cousins played when we came to visit, the shelves with my Grandfather's photo developing chemicals, all labeled neatly and out of reach of most children, the cheerleader megaphone he was gifted with at some point in his collegiate teaching career. And even though they were long gone after his death, I remember the shelves where his duck hunting buoys stood in neat rows. I remember the smell of water and the rubber that hung in the air around them. I remember his little office where he refilled his shotgun casings. I remember that was something scary to me as a child, and I didn't stay in that room for long---just long enough to take a butterscotch candy from the dish on his desk. I liked to think he kept them there just for me.

I remember my Grandmother's sewing closet. I remember the beautiful draperies she made for each room of the house. I remember that I thought there was nothing she couldn't make. I now have one of her ironing boards. I've had it for years now. It's heavy and awkward and most current ironing board covers don't really fit it; it's heavy plywood with heavy metal legs. The original cover had a blanket material as it's padding. Sometimes think a more modern board would be better for my needs, but then I remember that her name is written on the board beneath the cover, so it would be set aside for her at the store she bought it at originally. When I use that ironing board, I feel connected to her. Connected to my past.

We moved a lot during my childhood. My father was in the service, and moving often is a part of that life. My grandmother's address was on our luggage as our permanent address, just in case we were ever sepearated from it. That started when we moved to Germany in 1974. I moved into her house in 1989. I lived there until I got married in 1992 (interrupted only by a VERY brief stint sharing an apartment with a friend). During that time I connected with my Grandmother more than anyone else in my family did. This house held my roots and my history; her house was my roots in a very real way. Everywhere I went in that house, I was surrounded by a part of my history; it was one of those houses where nothing every really changed. I like to pretend that it's still a part of my family, even though it was sold per the instructions left by my Grandfather's trust.

We've lived in our house in Albany for four-and-a-half years now. This is the longest period in my entire life where I had the same address. In the 14 and a half years we've been married, we've had 10 different street addresses. That's a lot of moving! In fact, I think I still have at least one box in the garage that was packed a couple of moves ago. (I'm working through them--I just did a couple of boxes last week). Fortunately, my children have settled in here easily. They are planting the kinds of roots I never was able to. I marvel at that sometimes--and I'm grateful that they are building good friendships and relationships--that they are well-known at their elementary school and well-liked by their teachers. It's good for me too--I'm building my own friendships and relationships. We are all making our own roots.

Where are your roots? Do you have friends that date back to your kindergarten years? Or are you having the chance to build your own roots today. Whether we move all over or stay in the same places, we all have the chance to "bloom where we are planted" (to paraphrase Mary Englebreit). We can make our own roots or we can find a way to be content without them. Either way, I'm grateful for the dreams of my grandmother's house. I was happy there. I like remembering all the bits and pieces that make up my connections and my roots. And when I'm exasperating my children by wanting things just so--like my Grandmother did (I used to have to vacuum the carpet in straight lines--and then spend the rest of the week walking around the edges of the room so that I didn't mess up those lines) I remember that I come by my quirks honestly. I have connections to my roots.

Here's to connections!

And that's the other side.

2 comments:

Betsey said...

What a lovely blog entry, Dianne. It made me think of my grandparents house in Vermont where I spent a lot of time when I was attending college. I like the way you write. Do it some more, please.

Betsey

Amy W. said...

wow, you have a LOT of detailed memories from your childhood. i have many but most are 'fuzzy' but i do hang on to them. i have often thought of writing many of them down in an album where i can add random photos i have aquired over the years. thanks for the inspiration! :)