Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All the Livelong Day

We thrilled to hear his story about the time he had hiccups for four days straight. He tried everything to get rid of them, he said. Every suggestion people had. Eating cabbage, standing on his head, drinking water upside down, walking backwards on a railroad track, everything. Eventually, they went away. Now, he said, he drank pickle juice to keep them away. Eww, we squealed.

She would always let us pick what special dessert we wanted her to make. We always chose strawberry pie. She used huge strawberries whole, and her pie crusts were delicious.

His truck cab was filled with candy. Moderately disappointing to an 8-year-old, however, because every single kind was sugarless. Those pastel discs still remind me of climbing all over the front seat of his truck.

She kept the door to her bedroom closed tightly. The one place in the house we were not allowed to venture-it was a great mystery. When we eventually saw her room after she died, the stacks of organized excess that she kept hidden did not come close to measuring up to the explanations in our imaginations.

His prickly chin would press into your forehead as you hugged him goodnight. He seemed moved when we'd chorus, "Goodnight. I love you, grandpa."

She pulled out some of the old clothes she'd kept for us to dress up in. We put on her fancy hats and dresses from the 50's and 60's, and she'd give us accessories to match-gloves, purses, and jewelry. We'd ask if we look beautiful, and she'd assure us that we did.

He and my grandma had had separate bedrooms for ages. But why, we'd ask? I snore like a locomotive he'd say. His room smelled of shaving cream, cedar, and just a hint of smoke. His was a bit cluttered, and there were piles of letters requesting funds to fight cancer, help children with leukemia, take care of aging firemen, etc. He gave to every one.

In the big grassy lot next to the house, we'd run imaginary bases, creating ghost runners to take our place so we could have another kick or one more swing of the bat. With only two players, we bored of the games quickly. We spent more time making up rules and planning the newest game than we actually did playing it.

That same grassy lot eventually held a lifetime's belongings spread out for people to pick through and bid on next to the small house where my dad grew up. In that one weekend, my father let go of the flotsam and jetsam of his parents' lives, the path he walked to school, and the one he wore into the carpet of his childhood home. He had few strong ties to his hometown anymore and it was unlikely we'd ever be back again. He said goodbye, and he let go so gently and quietly that, as small children, we didn't realize the extent of that goodbye then.

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  1. This is beautifully written Hanna! Thank you for sharing. I had a strawberry pie recently like the one you describe with massive berries. Yum. I also know all about ghost runners, and am glad you also enjoyed their benefits as a child. Now my mind is running in a million different directions, recalling memories I hold dear.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Glad I can help get your memories flowing.

  2. This is beautiful Hanna. My grandparents have a basement/cellar that I've never seen and now I am not sure I want to, it may not live up to what I've imagined it to be. Isn't it funny how smells and touch are such a strong part of our memories. I can still remember the smell of my Grandad's cologne and that's probably the strongest memory I have of him.

    1. Thanks so much! We used to play would you ever and the choice was between giving up your sense of smell or taste. It was always a really tough choice for me...

      My grandma smelled like talc which will forever give me an instant flashback to climbing out of the tub in her bathroom.

  3. Crazy, the different memories we have of the same people. I don't remember not being allowed in Grandma's bedroom and I don't remember climbing aorund Grandpa's truck. I feel like I remember everything about Grandpa's room. Every time I see chocolate covered cherries I think of him. I remember vividly the carpet with worn paths and the curtains in the room we always stayed. I thought the strawberry pie was always just for me since I didn't like pumpkin or cherry pies.