Recently I finished reading a book about women who wrote the stories of their lives. It made me realize that I’m the only one who has the memories of my grandparents… from my unique perspective. My brother’s view is from the male side of life (read: missing all the important details)… and my baby sister’s is from years later after advanced technology. (Not really, but it sounds good.) My mind was flooded with warm memories of my Canadian Grandma’s house…. that I decided were blog worthy. You are welcome to stroll down memory lane with me.
The first house I remember my grandparents living in was in Vancouver, B.C. and the exterior of the house was covered with tiny pieces of blue, white and green glass and bitty black rocks. There was an occasional red piece as well. I was fascinated by the colors, and frankly, the thought of anyone gluing shiny little gems to the outside of a structure. How it sparkled in the sun! I admit that I picked off a few and kept them hidden from anyone. It was akin to discovering sea glass, free for the taking, but I guessed it belonged to someone and was surely stealing.
The jewel-covered house was two-story and had a long, dark wooden staircase that my brother and I flew down sitting on square velvet cushions. The house smelled of furniture polish…. always…. possibly why the ride down the stairs was so rapid! The livingroom, with the highfalutin television set, was at the bottom of the stairs across the hall, behind wooden pocket doors. Those were the first pocket doors I had ever seen, and I thought they were pretty nifty… all hiding like that.
I slept with my baby sister in a single white metal bed, in a tiny room off the kitchen. A cream-colored chenille bedspread hugged us all night long. The room had hardwood floors and a strange white and blue pot with a lid that sat suspiciously under our bed. I never knew what it was for. I never asked. I figured it out YEARS later in an antique store. AHA!
There were young men who were always hanging around Grandma’s kitchen. They seemed old to my 7 or 8 years, but were probably in their young twenties. I remember them sweeping the back porch and eating meat sandwiches at her table. One spoke funny and I was enthralled trying to translate his foreign tongue. I never knew where he came from. I never asked. YEARS later I learned that his name was Willy and he was from Scotland. That was also the first time I saw a tattoo up close….an anchor and I couldn’t quite figure out for the life of me why the guy drew on his hairy arm. I never knew who those men were. I never asked. YEARS later I discovered that Grandmother kept service men in the house who needed room and board.
Next door was a tiny house, also covered in the beautiful glass that called to me, where my “Great Aunt” lived. I don’t think she was related but we acted like it. I thought of them as the big house and the baby house. She made me little butter and jam sandwiches and cut off the crusts at her tiny kitchen table with only two chairs. She’s the only elderly woman who ever cut off crusts that I knew of. So wasteful, but I loved it. Plants grew everywhere in her little house….a green paradise. Vines traipsed across the curtain rods and hugged the lamp poles. Sort of jungle-ish, but so natural and welcoming. Great Aunt had a garden that she planted with her own hands. This impressed me beyond measure! I can still taste the green peas, fresh from the pods that I picked …. when I wasn’t picking glass off their houses.
Individually paper-wrapped mandarin oranges were introduced to me at Grandmother’s glass house. And seedless… heaven-sent. I loved them…. truly. Still do. That is where I tasted ginger ale for the first time too. Absolutely splendid!
As a kid you don’t really understand all that is going on to keep a house full of people running. I never asked where our food came from. YEARS later I heard that my Grandmother bought discounted surplus groceries from B.C. Hydro, only allowable because my Grandfather had worked there. She got boxes and boxes of canned goods that she put on the table for the service men and the other people who lived with them. People who “just needed a place and some love,” as I’ve heard it put.