Memories and Shrapnel

It’s 4:30 a.m., and I have just woken from a dream wherein I was taking possession of my great grandmother’s former home.  I don’t know why – it’s not for sale.  Someone else owns it now – a very nice, older, single woman, I’m told.  I haven’t been there in more than 5 years – maybe even 6. I can’t remember.  The last time I was there was just before the house was sold.  For some reason this dream has caused a wave of memories to wash over me, and I am grieving my grandmother all over again.  These memories feel so fresh – so vivid – I wanted to write them down.  I can’t bear the thought of ever forgetting this woman or her home.


Her living room bookshelves were littered with all these little Dutch figurines: Young ceramic children dressed in blue and white, wooden shoes, etc.  I wonder where these are today? When she lived in that home, these little tchotchkes seemed insignificant to me, but now I realize what those meant to her.  They were symbols of her Dutch heritage.  I wonder if they reminded her of her mother or grandparents?  Now that she’s gone, I wish I had little Dutch tchotchkes in my home as well.  A pair of wooden shoe-clad children bent 45 degrees at the waist to meet in the middle for a kiss.  A little Dutch tchotchke I would put in a shelf in my living room.  I would glance at it once in a while, and it would remind me of my little Dutch grandmother, and I would remember her for just a moment.


Her driveway was lined with peony bushes.  The back of her house was lined with hydrangeas.  Grandma’s yard was always alive with something, and I miss going to visit and talking about what was blooming.  It occurs to me now that I could have taken cuttings from the peonies and hydrangeas to grow myself.  Then again, I have moved three times since her house became someone else’s home.  It wouldn’t have been practical.  But at this time of the morning – at this stage of nostalgic inundation – it seems altogether irresponsible of me to NOT have these plants in my yard right now.  In the writing of this paragraph, I have actually had to convince myself that I should definitely NOT go to this house in the cover of night to steal clippings from these plants.  If they are even still there.  Please, God. Please tell me that nice, older, single woman kept my grandma’s plants…


Grandma had a big window next to her dining room table.  Her table was an old metal thing that made me think of a 50’s diner with it’s formica top and the vinyl seats on the chairs.  A beautiful set, it was not.  But what it lacked in beauty, Grandma made up for in use.  She would sit at that table, look out the window, and point out lovely birds that flew her way.  I remember pointing out cardinals to her – bright and beautiful.  She would look out over her back yard, and tell us about things she had discovered growing, about her neighbors and their Husky dogs, about the squirrels or rabbits or other creatures that had wandered into her dominion.  She would serve us homemade pizza (always with black olives) or peanut butter blossoms or cherry delight (my dad’s favorite), and we would talk and talk with Grandma until our bellies and hearts were full.  It was at this table under this window that my uncle and I talked about baptism when I was 16 and had just given my heart to Christ.  He baptized me that day – in Grandma’s church, with her standing by as our only witness. 


Of all the books in her living room, there was always one that stuck out to me.  It was an old, worn, yellow book of children’s stories.  I’m certain it was from the 50’s at the latest.  The first story in the book was about a cocky young rooster and a wise hen who told the rooster not to eat strawberries until they were ripe.  The rooster and his cockiness couldn’t bear the thought of waiting, so he ate green strawberries and got sick.  The wise hen clucked her gentle “I told you so” and all we readers learned a lesson in patience.  I don’t remember any other stories past that one.  I read that story over and over and over again.  Even into high school when we would go visit Grandma, I would reach to that book and read that familiar story.  I wonder where that book is now? I hope someone is loving that book the way I did.  I also hope that someone learns the lesson in patience that hen wishes to impart.  The patience thing never really stuck with me!


I remember so much about this house: the distinct smell, the bright pink walls in my Grandma Marilyn’s old bedroom, the blue water in her toilet, the treacherous steps to her basement, the bright yellow of her kitchen, the living room furniture – orange and floral, the cacti lining her windowsills, the puzzle books she was always working, the journal she kept by her chair.  I have reconstructed this house perfectly in my mind this morning, but it’s not quite the same.  I reach out to touch something – the rough fabric of the living room chair, the handle to the front door, the wrinkled, veined skin of Grandma’s hand – and my mental construction blows away like vapor.  It’s funny – I don’t seem to get this emotional over the home I grew up in, which my family left not too many years ago, or over my Grandma Alice’s home, which she still resides in.  These other places have always changed though – my parents have lived in a few other homes since that one on Bluff Crest Lane.  My Grandma Alice’s house underwent a major construction and addition about 20 years ago.  Perhaps what makes me so attached to Grandma Jordan’s house is that it was always hers.  Always HER.  Always the same.  The house was sold, a few years later Grandma passed away, and now that house and that woman are gone.  Possibly I grieve the sameness of Grandma Jordan.  She was contstant. Steady. Sure.


I’m missing my Grandma this morning.  When we sold her home, it felt as if a bomb had been detonated, and now I am wondering where the shrapnel has landed.  The story book? The Dutch figurines? The journals?  The kitchen table?  I hope someone is loving these items.  Perhaps other members of my family have them, and if that is true, I am thankful.  We should have a reunion of ourselves and Grandma’s things – just to remember. Image


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