Oh, house hunters. Today you will notice a new house on the market, will click on the pictures, consider the location and price, possibly be interested in seeing it, maybe making it your new home. You'll think, "It needs work" and it does. You'll see that it needs some updating, for sure. But there's so much you won't see.
You'll see a porch. It was the porch where I sat on many summer evenings, fireflies dotting the night sky, chatting with my Grandy about life and his memories of growing up in Brooklyn. He used to have a black radio with an antennae on the ground next to him, listening to hear if the Yankees won. The porch overlooked a garden he tended to most lovingly. One of our most-told family stories happened on this very porch when I was about 3 years old. My father was trying to hang a plant and I pushed him, saying, "Excuse me, please." He didn't want to step on my Grandy's prize flowers, so he leapt over the garden, landing on the lawn. Hanging plants in my family were always called "Excuse Me Pleases" from that moment on.
Grandma and I had coffee on this porch later, when I was a college student then teacher. Sometimes we would sit and watch the goings on of the neighborhood. After Grandy died, she put rocks in the garden instead of soil and potted flowers and plants. I would help her by filling the watering can and watering the plants on hot days, when they were especially thirsty.
House hunters, as you enter the house, you will see two comfy rocking chairs near a large window. This was a favorite spot of my Grandma's, in the sunshine, often listening to her radio- not the Yankees, but Frank Sinatra or maybe the news. This was the chair she held my babies in, laughing and rocking them and singing songs to them ("Let's all sing like the birdies sing...tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet"). There's a piano- where my dad taught me to play "Heart and Soul" when I was little- the only song I know how to play on a piano.
Off the living room is the kitchen and dining room, which is where so many of my memories reside. Grandy making his special "bubbly grilled cheese" for my sister and me, when both our parents and Grandma were at work. Grandy, rolling up his sleeves and doing the dishes after Grandma prepared a delicious meal. Sunday spaghetti dinners, with meatballs, and a side of political conversation and debates. My Grandfather, a Republican, and my Father, a Democrat loved to hash out the issues of the day. I remember baskets of nuts and my Grandy teaching me how to crack walnuts. I remember him letting me put his wine to my lips. The table where laughs and stories were shared.
Later, when I was a new teacher, Grandma would make me dinner each Wednesday and we would sit with my Uncle Billy and eat and chat. Then we would head up to the den to watch Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals or reruns of The Match Game. Grandma would go back down to the kitchen and put her kettle on, then bring up cups of tea for us and maybe cookies. It was a peaceful, relaxing, loving way to spend time during a busy teaching week.
The den calls to mind other memories. Sleepovers on Saturday nights with my sister when we were much younger, Grandma and Grandy's house the "hotel." I can still smell the clean, fresh sheets Grandma would put on the bed inside the pull-out couch. We would watch "Golden Girls" together before turning out the lights. My sister and I fought over the covers all night long, not used to sleeping in the same bed. In the morning, there would be a fancy breakfast- eggs, bacon, rolls and buns or sometimes a simple breakfast- cereal or toast. It was all good.
House hunters, you'll notice there's a railing on the second floor, where I used to help hang "toy" ornaments at Christmas time. My grandparents loved Christmas and took special pride in making their house look festive and fun for all of us to celebrate. You'll notice there's a pantry in the laundry room in the basement. I often ran down there to get my Grandma a can of sauce or a box of rice or whatever she needed.
After Grandma died this past December, I opened the hallway closet where all her jackets and coats still hung. They smelled like her and I breathed in deeply. I know those jackets are not in there anymore, I know she's not in her house anymore, not sitting in her rocking chair in the sun, not puttering in the kitchen, not chatting on the phone with my mom. I know it won't be my second house anymore, as it always was, growing up. I know it's empty and silly to keep. I know the best thing to do is move forward and let you come see this house, think about the memories you will make with your family, the laughter and meals you will share. Grandy always, always said, "Don't look back." Perhaps he knew we would need those words during challenging times of our lives, times like this, when all you want to do is hold on tightly. Move forward, we must. This could be the place where your new chapter starts, as we close the book on a beautiful story.
Yet... I still can't bear to drive my car down the block, to look at the porch, to remember the way my Grandparents would stand and wait until our car started driving off, waving goodbye.