My grandparent’s house was little and unpretentious. One bedroom on the main floor, behind the living room. There was a bathroom next to it with the slightest of hallways separating it and the door to the basement from the living and dining room. The kitchen was a small space next to the dining room, adjacent to the little hallway. There were two more bedrooms upstairs and my grandparents had raised four children in this cozy little house. It was always full of people, family or friends of theirs, and I remember my grandpa welcoming even the mailman when he came to the door to, Come on in and have a cup of coffee. They taught me a lot about hospitality and love.
I had a passel of cousins. And we ran through the house and yard, eating grandma’s cookies or an ice cream cone she made for us. There was a patio in the backyard with steps down to the grass and we put on plays for the adults using the patio as our stage.
Somehow my fondest memories are of my grandparents making us breakfast in the morning. My brothers and I still talk about how wonderful that was to us. We’d wake up to the smell of bacon cooking and would run to the dining room to eat. My grandmother would be standing at the stove flipping thin crepe like pancakes, one after another. She would already have a stack beside her before we ever got to the table. We would have contests to see who could eat the most. I never remember her complaining. Those pancakes were love in motion. Sausage, bacon, homemade jam and whipped cream. They made me a lover of all things breakfast.
In the living room was a console stereo. A large piece of furniture that housed a record player, with speakers in the front and a lid that would cover the top when it wasn’t in use. Music was always playing and people dancing… well, I was always dancing. I taught my mother, grandma and cousins how to hustle and we John Travolta’d our way around the living room. I had an aunt who played the accordian. She would sit in the corner and happily tap away at the keys, squeezing the air in and out of the instrument. Everyone would polka. Laughter, music and dancing. It’s amazing how much went on in that little place.
There was only the one small bathroom in the house. We would stand in line, jump around or knock incessantly at the door to get in. The shower would switch from hot to cold water whenever someone used the kitchen sink. I remember standing at the bathroom vanity putting on make-up or brushing my teeth and my grandma would come in, close the door and do her business, talking to me about something while I stood there. This strikes me funny now, and did then, too. But what do you do in a house full of people with only one bathroom?
Cribbage was the family past time. I played cribbage before I attended school and learned most of my early math skills playing this game with my grandparents, cousins, siblings or various relatives. In the evenings the adults would gather around the table for a game of cards. I loved being a part of this when I was young, watching all the fun or in later years participating with the grown ups. There was always lots of laughter, drinks flowed, food was plenty, and life was good.
My family moved often. I went to twelve different schools, while actually remaining in the same high school for three years. This home of my grandparents was my stability. They were the ever constant force in my life. The place I went to for comfort or encouragement. My grandma, who loved to shop, would take me out and buy me a new outfit just for fun or she would take me school shopping. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had many new clothes had it not been for my grandparents.
We never had family vacations and I didn’t have much growing up, but I had this. The love and nurturing of grandparents who loved me, who loved others. People who opened their home and their hearts. It wasn’t about the space, or lack of it. They never talked about buying a bigger house or moving. They loved people where they were at and made it a place everyone wanted to be. The smells, the sounds, still linger in my mind so many years later. They aren’t here anymore and I miss them. The house was sold years ago and remodeled by the new owner. But that home will forever be imprinted in my memory, their endowment of love.
I hope I have carried on their legacy. Home is a place for laughter, love, dancing, good food, family and friends…maybe even the mailman. All are welcome, no matter how big or small the space or how many children are running through it. I never want to lose that, no matter where I or my children are. In the busyness I want to remember that I too am building a legacy and passing it on.