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?