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Grandpa's House

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 13 February 2017 in Uncategorized

 

I have been working on tax stuff...which is BORING...and I did a live radio call-in show with Christopher Paul Curtis...which was fun...and then, sitting here alone (Howard is off playing bridge with his guys' bridge club, a cut-throat group if I ever saw one), I started searching Google Maps for places I have lived in the past.  In a way it is nostalic and fun, to see one's own history that way. In another way, it is disconcerting. What happened to the magnolia tree? There was one that bloomed outside my bedroom window. I suppose it got old, as I have, and died, as I haven't yet.

Anyway: this is small town Pennsylvania.  The white house on the left was my grandparents' house. My mother, pregnant with my soon-to-be born baby brother, took us (me and my sister) there when our dad went off to the Pacific during WWII. My brother Jon, newborn, came home to that house and I peered into his bassinet (I was five).

I learned to ride a two-wheeler on that long uninterrupted sidewalk across the street. That sidewalk was the border for a part of the Dickinson College campus and in those early 1940s days we played on the grounds...now there are buildings, dormitories, built on that land.  Now, in fact, there is a sign on the front lawn of Grandpa's house because he left it to the college and it is an official college building.

The porch on the side of the house held a swing, a traditonal porch swing, where my sister and I spent hours reading, arguing, giggling. Bamboo shades could be lowered to block the sun. In the evenings Grandpa and Grandma sat on the porch and called to neighbors who walked past: "Good evening, Mrs. Norcross!" .... those were the gas-rationing days when people walked. My grandfather walked each day to what we thought was "his" bank (well, he was its president. So maybe it was okay to think of it as "his"); he walked home for lunch and back after lunch. In the evening, after dinner, he turned on the large radio and we all listened to the news of the war.

My sister and I played in the back yard. We picked the hollyhocks and turned them upside down to make ladies wearing bright red and pink evening gowns.

The cook, my favorite person in that house (and I am including my sister and brother) walked home after dinner, carrying a basket...probably leftovers for her own family.

She came, years later, to my sister's funeral. I wrote about her, and about this house, in a book called AUTUMN SREET.  Later I took a copy of the book to her...she was in her nineties then. She remebered me. "You're Miss Katharine's little girl," she said. (I was in my forties).

My brother and I went back there for an afternoon some years ago. It was summer, college was not in session; the house was empty, and we stood on the porch and peered into the windows. Everything seemed so much smaller.

The book AUTUMN STREET opens with the words "It was a long time ago."  And it was. But it is also right now, right at this moment, still here in my memory. THere is a wonderful memoir by Nabokov called SPEAK, MEMORY.  And it does. It always does.

 

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