Posted in blog challenge, home, memoir, memories of houses

Blog Challenge-A House I Remember

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. Continue reading “Blog Challenge-A House I Remember”

Posted in blog challenge, home, inspirational, memoir

You Can Go Home Again

my house is a very very fine house

Class Two Blog Challenge

I depart the plane, walking behind the young energetic attendant, an aspiring college student thankfully with a good physique. He easily maneuvers the wheelchair with my husband in it. The two guys talk and they bond over life and goals. The young man is from Arkansas and works full time.

I’m relieved that the attendant isn’t a 90 pound woman from Eritrea or Eastern Europe. *Johnny, my husband, was worried about the women attendant who pushed him in the Detroit airport. She  had to lean into the ramps, almost parallel to the floor because pushing my 200 lb husband took all her strength.Johnny and I wonder how many little old ladies are working in American airports and why do they have them pushing grown men in wheelchairs? I feel bad because my lower back is a little weak and I can’t push him myself.

I only do airports when someone dies or is born.

I’m able to find our luggage quickly and get Johnny out of the wheelchair. He walks with a cane because of postpolio syndrome. Aside from being slow with a marked limp with some leaning to one side, you’d never know there was anything wrong. His big dark hands, broad shoulders and tender smile usually make me feel comforted-except when the scene is after a long-delayed funeral of my father. It’s all over with now. Both parents are gone. I’m a Boomer orphan. I’m exhausted, we’ve flown into the blasting desert heat and I just want to get home.

The shuttle takes us to the “Jackrabbit” section of the parking lot. I haul my big suitcase, and head to the car when I realize I’ve left my laptop on the shuttle. I run in a panic, gasping, sweating and catch the driver just in time. For some reason, he is rude and not helpful.  He probably hates his job. But I’ve retrieved my computer, thank God.

We try to find our way out of the parking lot with the AC on full blast. I am in an altered state. The last formality is over. All the emotion, the expectation, the teeth-gritting, the stilted withholding of anger, the cliques and clicks and clucks of the people who have since become strangers (except for a few) are behind me. Frustration erupts as we miss our exit out of parking lot and get stuck in the roundabout traffic heading back towards the terminal. My eyes feel dried out and my scalp itches. Johnny is no help. He’s eternally in a football-watching laid back attitude that causes me to vibrate.

“Oh I thought that was our exit” he offers. Nothing else.

Water pours off me from the 104 degrees. I can’t see clearly  from fatigue. Closer. Starbucks. The beautifully decorated entrance to the mall.

We make our way down past the housing developments with the cookie cutter driveways and perfect landscaping. The median in the road glistens with sand holding the erect phallic, and stickered saguaros. Tiny white flowers perch at the top like little hats on giants. A landscaped outdoor museum. Clean. Sparkly. Another right turn. I can feel the ground underneath the tires, now we’re on the dirt road. My muscles relax. My heart softens and I release the grip on the steering wheel. The surroundings are  motionless. Horses stand like monuments in their stalls near corrals. Ranches are serene, well-tended, staid. The afternoon sun captures and holds the landscape in its absolute power. The tires crunch over the sandy road and the rippled washboard shakes the undercarriage of the vehicle. We pass another ranch and the walled pristine Santa Fe homes with their flat roofs and tiny windows, quiet and still as the desert is in the heat of the day.

The shade of  willows and oleanders brush softly in my vision. The dirt road. An audible sigh. Another turn. Just a little longer. I can the see the house. The tiled roof looks pretty with its purple, gray and tan colors against the muted red outside. Almost there. At the final bend in the road my psyche quiets again. Home. The tall front door, the sun-blasted walkway to the front gleams. The pygmy palm tree looks fat. I glance at the outside of the living room bay windows-still there. Not grand, just homey. The mesquite tree at the edge of the driveway appears fuller, greener. It’s all  there. The gate is latched, the yard is still. The neighborhood is quiet. The ironwood tree guards the side yard with its trunk lounging low on the earth, its gnarly branches, makes a perfect child’s hideway fort underneath. A place to sit and read.

As soon as we get inside the house smells familiar, like lavender and canvas.

I unzip the suitcase and grope for the box containing Dad’s ashes and unwrap the two Wal-Mart bags around it. I can tell it’s been opened. Somebody had read my hand written insert. “These are my father’s ashes.”


*not his real name

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E Rowland

Posted in home, inspirational, journal prompts, journaling

Gratitude Journal Post 17: Home

down the road she goes

Continuing on with the November gratitude journal-its day 17 already and I’m so happy to be doing the exercise. I’m surprised at the depth of emerging feelings.  As usual, ideas are abundant. I don’t have a problem with gathering snippets.  Doing a self directed project such as a daily blogpost is helping in other aspects of life and my other writing. The GJ also coincides with  participation in a daily meditation program Desire and Destiny with Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. It’s perfect companion tool for self discipline.

I am grateful for our home, for this box in the desert. Our house is more of a studio and our projects are always out. Since Jesse and I are both artist types this works for us. The house is simple and functional. We were very lucky to find it. The location is near a nature preserve. We have converted completely to solar power and am over the top proud of my commitment. This is the first house I have ever owned. I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to continue to enjoy this awesome privilege. I never ever take it for granted.  I love staying home.

Day trips or short jaunts suit me just fine. Once I get out on the road I enjoy the long hours and new sights. Maybe one day I’ll be a long distance traveler-but truly–down on the farm’ is the place I’d most rather be. Back to writing.

candy cactus

Journal prompt: How would you describe your home or current living arrangement? Do you love the idea of putting a lot of energy into your living space? Do you feel secure? Would you rather travel or spend time at home? Have you moved around often?

Above photos: Top is the country road near our home. The wild pig was a one time visitor. She showed up in our back yard with her babies. No, we do not encourage them or feed them, so please don’t get your knickers in a knot.  We opened the gate and away she went. Second photo: cactus blooms. Copyright © 2013 art, photos, and text by Susan E. Rowland