Holding On to Memories

Uh, that's not a chariot, hon.

This past Saturday my family held an estate sale at my grandparent’s house. They’ve been in their new place for several months now and it’s time to figure out what’s going to happen to their house. Regardless of whether it’s sold or rented, furnishing and stuff in the house needed to be removed. So just about everything was marked for sale.

“Sister” and I helped my folks get the house ready Friday night, pricing things and placing them in their assigned rooms. And as we went through the rooms, she and I each found things we wanted to keep rather than see sold. Things which, when observed from the outside, seem trivial. A blanket, a plastic teapot, a small mug, Christmas ornaments, sewing patterns, pillow cases, belt buckles, handkerchiefs.

Blanket: whenever my sister and I stayed the night at our grandparents’ house, the blue blanket was on the bed. I have no clue what the style is called, but to me it’s a Grandma Blanket.

Plastic teapot: my sister and I once discovered that if you filled the toy teapot with water, put the lid on and blew into the spout, you could blow the lid off. When my sister tried it once, she laughed so hard when the lid blew off that she inhaled water through the spout and into her nose. Neither of us can think about that teapot without giggling.

Small mug: the white mug has a gold rim and The Jungle Book characters painted around the outside. At least one of use got to use it for drinking milk at lunch or dinner.

Christmas ornaments: no specific memories around the ornaments, but many a Christmas was celebrated at our grandparents’ house, so we each took a couple.

Sewing patterns: our grandmother was a good seamstress, once making my sister and I matching dresses from an old square-dancing dress she’d had. My sister took a few patterns and had “Em” tell her which ones she might like a dress from.

Pillow cases: again, no memories other than instantly recognizing the patterns from our childhood. My sister is going to attempt to make aprons or something out of them.

Belt buckles: Grandpa almost always had a belt buckle on, though they never seemed to do much in the way of holding his pants up. I took one that he got during a trip to Alaska, and my sister took one that had his name on it. We’re likely to never do anything with them, but they still remind us of him.

Handkerchiefs: Grandpa was never without a hanky, especially at church on Sundays. If I, my sister or my aunt sang during worship, the hanky was always at the ready and rarely dry when we were done. Grandpa was always proud of “his girls” and their singing.

I did, however, purchase their recliners when the chairs were still at the house after the estate sale. For as long as I can remember, Grandma and Grandpa had recliners (and a couch) in their house. Babies were held there, kids cuddled there and even some many adults were hugged there.

These items will always be with me, as will the memories of my grandparents that go with them. I know that I don’t need these things to remember my grandparents by, but I look forward to reminiscing about them with Em when she’s older. I’m glad my daughter has been able to get to know her great-grandparents, even if they’re not the same people that I knew growing up. But she’s forming her own memories with them just as I did.

One of the hardest parts about losing my grandparents’ “selves” to the Alzheimer’s has been knowing that they are no longer living in their home of over 50 years. The home where many birthdays, holidays and even a wedding were celebrated. The home where the backyard seemed gigantic (and still is in comparison to newer homes), the mail slot held hours of entertainment, many a meal consisting of plastic play food were served, where tiny Styrofoam balls transformed into snowflakes that floated down over the Christmas tree, where desert excursions hunting for rocks were started, where games of cards and dominoes were played into the wee hours of the night, where ice cream could always be expected to be available when Wheel of Fortune came on.

And what hurts me the most is knowing that it’s very possible that in the next year or so this house will no longer belong to my family. If I had the financial means, I’d buy it right now. If the house is rented out, I want to be one of the tenants. I wouldn’t care that there is no A/C or that there is only the floor heater in the front room and a wall heater in the back room. I get an achy heart and an angry knot in my stomach at the thought of someone else living in that house. It feels like it’s my house, as much as any other I grew up in.

I want it to always be my house.

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