June 17, 2014
Describe the house you lived in when you were 12. Use variations in your sentences. I changed it up to write do a free write on my grandfather’s house in a pastoral farming village near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Will look for pics later. Trying to keep up.
It was the screened in front porch wrapped around the house of my childhood joy that I remember well. It sheltered the 1920’s Victorian house that I returned to in my late teens. I owned a dog and Reno made Grampa anxious. His house is where I found the greatest inspiration to write and draw. Once in a while I would see Grampa taking an occasional nip from an ancient wine bottle he kept hidden in the kitchen cupboard-something to calm his nerves around company.
Upstairs were the remnants of my grandmother’s things in a tall cherry wood dresser at the head of the landing, a second floor that whispered of a bygone era. I didn’t know her. She died the year before I was born. I peered into the drawers of treasures often, sniffing the scent of a woman I longed for, Her embroidered handkerchiefs, a sock darner, and sewing items, cloth baskets for buttons. A few photos. Faded. Tender.
The upstairs still had faded wallpaper and pull down windowshades, tended to like a museum. A clawfoot tub highlighted the bathroom. Windows were low to the ground. The floors of well-worn pine, in that part of the house, always clean, sagged.
When we came to visit as children, Grampa would grill steaks in the broiler, the smell wafting through the Victorian. The linoleum hadn’t been upgrade since the 40’s. After he washed the dishes, he would pour boiling water from the tea kettle to sterilize it all. He was in charge. the little back porch, or mud room smelled slightly damp, and yet immaculate with a wafting order of apples and wooden tools. That is where my grandmother had a bad accident with naptha when she was drying cleaning. It exploded and burnt her body. Her screams could be heard all the way down the tree-lined street.
The kitchen was tiny, with handcrafted wooden drawers that ka-thumped heavily when you opened them. Grampa, his father, and great-grandfather made most of his tools. The silverware was heavy, the newer cutlery came in the late 1950’s, otherwise there was no plastic in his kitchen. The back stairs, all eight of them, heavy thick slabs led down to where the old wringer washer once stood in its dank, forbidden territory.
He slept in the old bed with the staid walnut headboard. He used the same bedspread for many years, a rose-colored cover with the beaded bumps on it. He pulled the covers over his head when he slumbered. Would the grim reaper come tonight? The tiny bathroom off his bedroom contained one wash basin with the turn of the century white knobs. It smelled of camphor and liniment. He didn’t want us messing about in his things. He was a man of few words.
Grampa rose at five every morning and donned his green custodian uniform. Chores done, he nestled into his deep overstuffed armchair with an ashtray stand for his pipe.
The “formal” dining room area held a low bed in the later years. It didn’t look out of place. When we came to visit, my parents slept downstairs so that dad wouldn’t hurt his back on the upstairs rickety ancient box spring mattress, the one that sagged in the middle. Later on he told me that was where I was conceived.
But it was the screened in porch with the gray wooden floor I loved so well.