Memories of Grandma Fritz’s house

I’ve been having a difficult time figuring out how to write about my grandparents.  It seemed like it shouldn’t be that hard.  After all, I’d written up a couple pages already before I stopped and decided I should do it differently.  And then I started to really think about how I remember my trips to their homes and how my memories of each aren’t even close to being stored the same way and I started trying to find a way to categorize the whole situation and it just got out of hand.

So I’m going to stop thinking so much and just write.  And hopefully what I end up with will make some vague semblance of logic.  Or at least be mildly entertaining to read.  Especially for those of you who know what I’m talking about.

When I was younger, Mom and Dad would drop us kids off at Grandma Fritz’s house for . . . what was it?   One week?  Two weeks?  It felt like two weeks, but maybe it was shorter.  Time passes differently when you’re younger.  But they were fun weeks.  We maybe didn’t behave the way we should have – we spent too many hours sitting in front of the television instead of sitting listening to their stories.  But they had cable!  And Nickelodeon!  And air conditioning!  And Grandma was always making sure that we had enough to eat, so there was always something to snack on.

We’d spend a little time with our cousins who were close to our age.  We’d go on trips to the zoo.  I have fond memories of going to the zoo with my grandparents and the aunt who lived with them at the time.  I remember going to see where my aunt worked, when she worked at an eye doctor’s office for a while.  It was a dark office with wooden desks and it felt so expensive.  In the car I’d sit and look at the wonderfully beautiful purple star sapphire ring that she wore and wonder about the moles that popped out of her skin and how she managed to not snag them on things and tear them off.

Whenever I smell gold Dial soap, it reminds me of my grandma’s house.  They always had Dial soap in the bathroom; we had Ivory soap at home and it was much more harsh.  When I have sandwiches with cheese, deli meat, iceberg lettuce, and mayo or braunschweiger, it reminds me of my grandma because we’d eat those so often when we were there.  And it was such a delicacy because at home we’d never have sandwiches with something other than bologna or peanut butter and jelly.  She’d give us instant oatmeal for breakfast, wonderful and delicious after Malt-o-Meal at home.

The front door of her house leads into a small, dark porch that leads into the kitchen, and there’s a sweet, musty smell in that room that I always think of as The Smell of Grandma’s house.  It’s the first thing we’d smell when we got to the house.  We’d sit on the floor of that porch and play with toys.  Cars in a garage with a spiral drive up and down.  Others that I can only vaguely remember.

There’s a room upstairs that I think was supposed to be a bathroom but that we weren’t allowed to go into because the floor wasn’t sturdy.  My memory might be completely off on that one, but it’s what I remember.  I used to wonder what that room could look like without a floor – dark, with boxes around the corners of a black, gaping hole.  I never stopped to think about what would happen to the first floor if there wasn’t a floor in that room. 

We weren’t allowed into the basement, either.  It was Grandpa’s territory and it wasn’t safe for children.  Same with the garage.  There was a long bookshelf at the top of the stairs in the house that held his AC Delco books.  Grandma used to call him “Grumpa” when his blood-sugar was off balance and he hadn’t taken his medicine.

There was a swing on a tree in the back yard and we’d play there.  There’s a huge empty field behind the house where enormous electrical poles stand holding the wires and we’d run around there sometimes.  There was a park a little ways down the road and we’d go down there and play, too, when someone would walk us there.

There were three bedrooms upstairs:  one for my aunt and two smaller ones where we kids would sleep while we were there.  When we arrived, there’d be something waiting for us—a new toothbrush, usually.  Maybe some chocolate or a small toy.

There was a cat named Darcy who thought she was a dog and would try to bark, but mostly stayed to herself.  They had a dog, whose name escapes me at the moment and that surprises me because they had her for years.  (Her?  Him?)  Sandy?  Is that the dog she has now or the dog they had before?  The dog they have now was a hyper thing, but she’d bring her own pillow around to lay her head on it.

The organ in the dining room that didn’t work but had old wedding photos on the top of it.  The photos of my dad and his siblings on the wall of the dining room.  The many, many photos lining the walls of the living room.  The huge ceramic vase or butter churn or whatever it was sitting in the corner.  The dark shelves filled with mysterious things in the stairs leading out to the back door.

Textures are a big part of my memories at her house.  The feeling of the short berber carpet in the kitchen and bathroom.  The shag carpeting on the floor of the rest of the house.  The scratchy green fabric on Grandpa’s chair.  The smooth paint on the floor of the screened-in porch.  The softness of the skin on Grandma’s hands.  The cold gray metal desk in the dining room.  The springy back of the turtle-shaped footstool.

We would have parties and all my aunts and uncles would come over.  We’d have dinner that Grandma would spend hours cooking: ham and rolls and veggies and pies.  The kids would sit at a card table off to the side while the adults all crammed to fit at the dining room table.  White curtains covered windows that lined the outside wall of the dining room, defusing the bright afternoon light.  We kids would plot ways to get more dinner rolls.

On Sundays, we’d go to church and sit in Sunday School classes where we didn’t know anyone and sit through sermons where Grandma would pass us Cert mints.  When we got home, Grandpa would be sitting watching cars go around and around in circles on TV.  Later, we’d get to watch old movies like “Show Boat” and “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma!” 

I get sad thinking about Grandpa.  I miss him.  My last memories of him are at Erica’s graduation, sitting in Pizza Hut and talking with him about how his eyes watered because of his diabetes.

And I think that’s where I’m going to stop with this one.  Abruptly, without any great transition, on a sad note.  I’m at the top of the third page of my Word document, which means I’ve babbled on for a long time.  I should let you get back to whatever you were doing before you stopped by.  But before you go, family members, how accurate is my memory?  And did I spark any memories of your own?


  1. Funny the things you remember that never struck me as memorable. But you actually “lived” there for a while, and I’ve only visited. And the dog before their current dog, whom I don’t think you’ve met and whose name is also Darci, was Sandy. She was the lab cross that was Skipper’s litter mate, but didn’t have his long coat. Fun post to read!

  2. Nailed it on the head, sis.

    Dusty, I believe, was the dog before Sandy. I remember her (him?) as a gentle dog that moved very carefully and slowly. I think she (he?) was 5 or 6 by my first memory. By the time we were there for summers, 9 or 10?

    Shag carpet on the steps. Game closet on the left as you came around the last turn at the top of the steps (across from the service guides). Exotic board games, cooties and pick up sticks.

    Two small bedrooms with very little space between the bed and the desk. An old TV with a remote control that worked by clicking loudly at the TV. That was my room several years.

    3 phone extensions and we’d all get on the phone to talk to Mom and Dad, but the line would get really quiet when we did that.

    Aunt Dee’s light switch was the figure of a victorian woman that slid up and down rather than a switch.

    Grandpa had a police scanner.

    The door to the front porch had a deadbolt on it. I’d never seen one before and thought it was cool.

    I was just thinking, the other day, about the carbonated water dispenser Grandma and Grandpa used to have. They had Tab mix in the fridge and could make pop! At least, that’s what I thought. I’m not sure that’s how it really worked, but…

    I remember listening to Paul Harvey (had to ask Amy who the “…and now, the rest of the story” guy was) in the kitchen.

    I remember thinking the phonebooks were huge on the shelf over the washer and dryer in the kitchen.

    Good memories. Thanks, Kylene.

    1. Dusty! That’s it! I think it was a *he.* He was such a sweetie.

      I’d forgotten about what was in the closet upstairs! I remembered there was something important about it, but couldn’t remember what it was. And the cooties! Those were awesome! 🙂

      There was that word processor in that room that you got, too. I remember being so confused about that thing. Why not put a full screen on it?

      I remembered talking on all the extensions on the phone; they would do that when we called from home, too. I don’t know why I didn’t include that in the post . . . must have run out of room. 🙂

      And I’d completely forgotten about the light switch in Dee’s room! That was the funkiest thing! And the police scanner, too! I forgot about that.

      I remember the radio playing in the kitchen, but I don’t think I ever listened to it. But I do know the shelf you’re talking about. There were pencils in a can up there, too, weren’t there?

      But I honestly don’t remember the carbonated water thing. I remember how excited Grandma was when they got a new fridge. The freezer was on the bottom and I thought that was so weird. But the carbonated water thing? Complete blank.

  3. I remember flattened pennies at the zoo.

    We also always got to go to Toys-R-Us and pick out one toy for the week. I remember wandering around the store forever looking for the *perfect* toy.

    I also remember playing croquet. But maybe that sticks in my head b/c of “the terrible accident”

    And the big baby stroller in Aunt Dee’s closet. The one with giant wheels.

    And certs. Lots of certs. I loved certs.

    And the forbidden barn.

    The smell of Dial soap takes me back as well…

    But food really sticks out in my mind though. Whenever I made a big deli sandwich I think of Grandma. Or raisins & spice oatmeal. And when I eat braunschweiger I think of Grandpa.

    And Grandpa would always send us home in the car with a big bag of popcorn. Didn’t he?

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