Think of your childhood home. If you had several, pick one. Write a detailed description of walking into that house. Which rooms were where? What stories are sparked by writing that description? (Courtesy of Patti Digh)
As I stand looking at my grandmother’s house, it seems smaller than it did as a child. The single step up to the sidewalk remains the same although a few cracks give away its age. The hedges around the porch are gone, but the memories of that porch still live. As I look up I see the ceiling of the porch is still painted a pale green and the ovoid shaped, textured light fixture still hangs there by the same three rusty screws. There is no longer a glider, but I can still sense it there and can almost hear the sound it made as it moved back and forth.
I place my hand on the doorknob and a memory shoots through me of all the people whose hands turned that knob through its life. I feel the familiar texture of as it slips into my palm. As I turn it I remember watching my grandfather lubricating the lock with a puff of graphite from a squeeze bottle. Before I can even step into the house, I hear the pendulum clock ticking on the mantlepiece. I see my grandfather, his hair stark white, slowly winding it with the key kept in the tiny door at the base of the clock.
Immediately to my right are the stairs leading to the bedrooms and the bathroom upstairs. I remember pretending to be mountain climbers with my brother, scaling the stairs turned mountain peaks. At the base of the stairs is a bullet hole in the wood, put there when my father was a young boy. I see the banister and remember this was our makeshift pulpit when we played ‘church’.
The walls have been painted but they still have the spongy texture of some material I fear might have contained asbestos. The brick around the fireplace has been painted in a contemporary style, but it does not keep me from seeing the red brick hearth and the chestnuts nestled into the coals to roast. My grandfather’s red recliner sits near the fireplace, occupied by my grandmother after my grandfather passed away. I see her stockings rolled up at the base of her knees and she is playing the ukulele singing the song “Little Mohee”.
Under the stairs is the same little door and the same latch that led to the storage area where my grandmother stored her paper supplies she used to make paper flowers. I suddenly remember pulling one of the boxes and finding silverfish scurrying through the paper. Under the stairs the wall phone, the first one we ever had, no longer hangs on the wall, but I can still see the long tangled cord stretched by too many adolescent phone conversations.
To my right is my grandmother’s bedroom. I still see her dresser, covered with a silk dresser scarf, a neatly lined row of delicate bottles, and a round container of powder with its huge fluffy powder puff. I can still see her in front of the mirror getting ready for church. She wore pillbox hats with netting, dotted with miniature pearls, secured to her hair with long hat pins.
From the same spot, I look into the dining room with french doors that always stood open, flanking the double door entry. I always dreamed of closing those doors, but was told the floor would need to be sanded down before that could happen. To the left was the brown Siegler stove that heated the house. The long dining table was tucked into an alcove with a wall of glass divided into small windows by white molding. Beyond the window was the view of the back yard, with the large forsythia bush where my grandmother swept away the snow under its branches so she could feed the birds.
Beyond the dining room to the left was the kitchen. There was a small free standing refrigerator with a small radio on top. There were small corner knick knack shelves where my grandmother displayed her collection of ceramic birds. Inside the far cabinet was where my grandfather kept his medicinal liniment from which he swallowed a tablespoon every morning. Tucked away in a corner cabinet, was where my grandmother squirreled away her little glass jar of Tang she drank for the vitamin C.
Outside the kitchen was the closed-in back porch with a freezer and a small table. In the freezer was always an old Maxwell House coffee can filled with cookies easily defrosted for an unplanned treat. The windows were covered with rolled bamboo shades that could be lowered to block the summer sun. The door led outside into the side yard.
I could have written so much more. So many memories I revealed that could easily have taken me down multiple rabbit holes. I did not even go through the upstairs in the house. This reminded me of things I had not thought of for years. Such a good exercise for opening the doors to memories lying dormant for so long. I recommend it if you are so inclined.