Memories Not For Sale

My dad called to let me know he found a buyer for the old family homestead. I was last there ten years ago, right after the death of my precious grandmother. The house was going to be rented, and my job was to clean it before the new tenants arrived. The task proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.

trees and front

When I was a child I always knew grandma would be waiting for me on the front porch when I came to visit. As she got older, she would greet me at the door. When she started to become frail I would let myself in, but she was always anticipating my arrival and her beautiful face was the first thing I’d see. This was the first time in thirty-three years that she wasn’t there to greet me.

mommaw

As I was vacuuming, I saw a small pill buried in the carpet. I dug it out and held it in my hand, remembering all the times I would move her chair and look for pills she thought she had dropped.

As I sat in the dining room floor, eating the lunch I had packed, I remembered hiding under the table and playing peek-a-boo with her. And another time I hid there because I was afraid of a thunderstorm. But she sat in a chair next to the table and sang, “Oh, Jesus is the rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm.”

As I swept the upstairs I remembered sitting on the edge of the bed with her and crying over some old photos we found shortly after my grandpa died.

My grandparents with their first baby-my daddy. 1950

My grandparents with their first baby-my daddy. 1950

As I cleaned the downstairs bedroom, I remembered the morning we found my grandfather had passed away in their bed. And I remembered holding her hand when for the first night in forty-four years she went to bed without him.

As I wiped out the kitchen cabinets I removed the different items that had been taped inside. The recipe for friendship bread, the list of foods she couldn’t have on her renal diet, and an old “Hello My Name Is” tag that my grandpa had stuck there after some event he attended. He passed away fourteen years before she did and she never had the heart to take it down. Now it was my responsibility.

As I vacuumed the room she used for storage I picked a Christmas ornament hook out of the carpet. The Christmas memories came flooding back. We baked hundreds of cookies every year. She kept tins of every child and grandchilds’ favorite Christmas treat. Mine was the Peanut Butter Blossoms with the Hershey kiss in the center. Even though my parents were quite poor, I always got the one item I wanted most for Christmas. Roller skates, fancy jewelry box, Dancerella doll…she made it all possible.

As I sat on the front porch listening to the birds and smelling the fresh after-rain smell that takes me back to childhood, I remembered when she brought my little table and chairs outside and we had a fancy tea party.

Then I noticed the hundreds of dents in the aluminum siding, just behind the old porch swing. I remembered how she would say, “We mustn’t let the swing bang the house or your Poppaw will be upset!” Then we would crash into it again because I wanted to go higher. And even though Poppaw was upset with all the dents in the house, it was hard not to giggle a little bit.

The porch swing hung on this side

The porch swing hung on this side

I sat on the porch steps and looked out over the yard. There used to be a huge garden and a strawberry patch. I remembered when we were working in the garden and saving earth worms for my uncle’s fishing. She pulled one out of the ground and exclaimed, “I found a big one!” Then flung it across the yard because it was a snake!

We canned vegetables and jellies and jams. We picked gooseberries and raspberries and rhubarb for pies. We snapped beans while sitting in the porch swing. We made homemade strawberry ice cream on the side porch.

And then I saw the old abandoned shed where the good dog King had lived. I guess he’s been dead for about a quarter of a century now. So hard to believe!

I walked out to the mailbox one more time. Not because I thought there would be any mail, but because I walked it so many times with my grandma. She always wore one of her many head scarves when she went to get the mail and I always got to pick one too. My favorite was bright pink and she would tie it snugly under my chin before we set out.

The mailbox

The mailbox

The memories were overwhelming and precious. I felt deep sorrow and yet such thankfulness to God that I was blessed all those years with this wonderful woman as my grandmother. I hope the new owner of her house makes as many precious memories for his own family.

Coming up this winding road, my sister and I always tried to be the first one to see Mommaw's house!

Coming up this winding road, my sister and I always tried to be the first one to see Mommaw’s house!

My family in 1976. I'm sitting to the right of my grandmother.  I should wear red knee socks more often.

My family in 1976. I’m sitting to the right of my grandmother. I should wear red knee socks more often.

 

My sister and cousins hanging out on the beloved porch swing.  1991

My sister and cousins hanging out on the beloved porch swing.
1991

About Ginger Truitt

Ginger is an author, speaker, and mother of five. Her award-winning newspaper column appears weekly across the Midwest. Recently, she was also published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood.

Comments

  1. Kenneth Barnhouse says:

    I just read this bawling my eye’s out. I am 78 yrs. young, and just lost my wife this past Thanksgiving. Reading of your cleaning out the house just tore me up. I have been going thru things, and finding things you have mentioned. Such sweet memories. My wife never threw any thing away. One of my favorite things I found was a book given to her by our daughter called a “Mother’s Legacy”. I never knew she had written in it. Some of the beautiful things she had said about me. I think I want to take it to my grave with me. You have really got me teared up this morning. I loved reading this article. How I wish I could put things in writing you. It is beautiful,thank you. Ken

    • Ken, I’m so sorry for the loss of your wife. How precious to find her written words! Thank you for taking the time to share part of her legacy with me. It sounds like she was a beautiful person.

  2. Ginger:

    Have always enjoyed reading your column in the Lebanon reporter over the years. Your light hearted humor about family is something I think we can all relate to. In reading your stories over the years i have always wondered though: does “hubby” have a real name or is that simply his real name…ha. The poor guy. Please use his real name at least once in a while. He deserves the recognition. … at least I think so. Anyway, please keep the stories coming. They are very entertaining and usually about things in life we all can relate to. But you gotta fix that “hubby” thing. Ha; sorry but just sticking up for him.
    Many thanks,
    Roger Neal

    • Hi Roger! Thanks for taking the time to drop me a line! Hubby does have a name, but now he is ex-hubby. I guess you should have stood up for him sooner! 😉 Thirteen years ago, I used his real name and my editor encouraged me to call him something more generic so that my readers could more fully identify with the stories. So that is how he became “hubby.” How he became ex-hubby is another story entirely… 😉

      • Sent a message back to you but I think it went to a “do not reply” so just in case, here it is:

        Wow, thanks for the response. I guess I didn’t think writers/authors actually read our comments so thank you. Sorry to hear about ex hubby. I’m sure it was a shock and always hard on kids too. I had a similar experience couple of years ago. After 10 years she came home one night and simply said she was moving out and “just want to be alone for a while”. Quite surprised and didn’t know what to say. However, learned a couple of days later that she had moved in with a guy [much younger and more money, Ha]. I guess you just never know. Took me a while to adjust to being alone but it does get better and I hope the same for you.
        Keep writing. Look forward to and enjoy your stories.
        roger

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