We got our ice creams and started walking towards the street. After a few steps, he kindly asked “are you sure you want to walk down here?” I nodded and looked off into the distance. The house on the corner of Pine and Main was now a flower shop with some rows of flowers planted out front.
When my mom was a child, she would walk by and gossip with her friends, telling stories about the older woman who lived here and how her house was haunted. I grew up thinking the same thing. Seeing ghosts in the third floor windows and running home to my grandmother. Out of breath, explaining what I saw. My grandmother always chuckled at my stories.
We turn down Pine and everything looks so different. At first I had no idea which house it was. All of the small capes were large colonials, only a few were still the same as I last remembered. It wasn’t until we got close that I realized I was looking at my grandmothers house, lucky number 13. It was no longer white with black shutters and a lavender door. It was tan and white and looked so foreign to me. Is this really the house I spent so much time in? It must be – the porch my dad and uncles built was still standing. It’s the only thing in the back I could see.
Since my father is from The Golden State, I only had one grandmother in New England, Helena. Helena was a beautiful woman, very particular, and very stubborn. She was a worrier. She enjoyed her sweets, her birds and plants, and her beloved Sinatra. We spent a lot of time together at 13 Pine.
I have fond memories of sliding down the basement stairs on my butt. The musty smell of the basement hitting my face, humidity covering my body. Tip toeing from pallet to pallet, hoping not to fall into the flooded water. Finally reaching the destination of the washing machine and dryer. The smell of cotton and laundry detergent filling my lungs. Oh, how I still love this smell! Filling the square, pale pink laundry basket with warm clothes. Folding them upstairs with her on her bed. Matching socks and chatting away. If only I could do laundry with her one more time.
We walk for a bit and turn around. “You know that broken square laundry basket we have? The pale pink one?” He nods. “In winter, I used to lug it outside and go sledding down that hill over there. That’s why it’s broken.” I’m sure he now realizes why I hold that silly thing so near and dear to my heart.
We keep walking slowly and I show him where the clothesline was, where I used to watch the hummingbirds, and where I used to build my snowmen. It’s amazing to think that I will never walk through that door again to the smell of a home cooked meal or the sound of my grandmother singing her songs and clapping away. If only I could have one more day.
My grandmother came to me for a split second today. I was walking to work and all of a sudden, it felt like I had walked into a wall. Overcome with emotions, sorrow, and loss; inexplicably so. Sadness but also memories of joy. Memories of calling her. Longings of sitting on her back porch or lay in bed with her as we would, asking for advice or daydreaming of what was to come in my life. A cup of tea, cream cheese toast, ice cream, the aroma of a home cooked meal.
When I got to work, I understood why she visited me. My colleague’s grandfather was dying. She explained to me how she left him in the hospital. All of the bad memories came back. Memories I had placed aside to focus on being a support for my mother in her loss. Memories I have ignored for years. All revisited this morning.
Although I was 12 years younger the last time I called her, I still remember her telephone number. I remember how she would sing my name as she was calling me from inside the house. I remember how she smelled. I remember how it felt to wake up in my room there; the antique bed, the sheer white curtains with sunlight shining through, the old linens. I remember everything. And I miss her.