When I was a child, every Sunday was “Grandma Visiting Day.” To a child of eight, this was a fearsome, yet awesome visit.
The entrance to Grandma’s home was from a cobbled brick sidewalk. The glass door of Grandma’s house chimed when you opened it. The glass chimes that hung on the door greeted our arrival with melodious chords. The first step into the home was onto a never ending, frayed, striped runner, disappearing into the ends of a frightening dark hallway.
In the center of the hall sat a rickety rack, embracing a half-warped mirror. Hooks on either side overflowed with coats, jackets and sweaters. When standing on tiptoe, I could see myself in the only part of the cracked mirror that was usable.
The open stairway’s banister sparkled temptingly as the sun’s rays gleamed partway up the rail. No matter how much that rail beckoned me to slide down, I knew this was not the house to do it in.
The steps upstairs led to two rooms. I only heard of these rooms in vague conversations. Like the banister, I knew the rooms were there, but forbidden territory. Children were not allowed upstairs without adult supervision.
A door in the hallway led to a neatly kept, but drab, living room. Faint light streamed through the two windows and bounced off yellowed wallpaper. The small room encompassed a blanched, rose-colored horsehair sofa, with a matching over-stuffed chair. In secluded corners were odds and ends of mismatched tables. An extra chair, covered with a murky gray-black shroud, was somehow the more tempting. It didn’t itch when sat upon.
The broad windowsills abounded, in all shapes and sizes of vases that held ash-colored plants, hungry for sun and water. The windowsill, between vases, overflowed with crinkled leaves and hardened dirt, the only unkempt area in the house. For some reason, it stayed that way.
A collection of buttons, sewn on small cardboard sheets, was stacked in a shedding straw basket, the only amusement for me. Next to the wide-seated rocking chair (which could hold three children at a time), was the only colorful item in the room, a rustic tin can filled with blue, green and red yarn.
An archway opened into the darkened, unused parlor. A quick glance revealed odd-shaped pieces of antiquated furniture. They were not the kind you wanted to be familiar with. A window in the corner furnished no light; the outside porch roof screened out the sun. It was the most feared room in the house. It was a room I scurried through for fear the inanimate objects would grab me.
The kitchen held the secrets to all the fascination in this house. A clanky stove held hot water, from the fire, that burned inside during winter months. It stood on skimpy legs that looked as if they’d collapse at a mere touch. The black, smooth slate kitchen sink held a rough iron pump, with a handle that was made for my energetic hands. After pumping it, my cupped hands held the silky froth of water that tasted like sugar and honey all in one. I returned often for the sheer taste of it, not thirst.
A towering cupboard, or dumbwaiter, opened to the day’s specials. Small shelves, held by strong rope, moved up and down. On these shelves were mammoth gingerbread cookies, lukewarm from the cool cellar walls.
The kitchen was the only room in the house with many undraped windows. A table was set for two, Grandma and her housekeeper. Seated at the table, while I gobbled gingerbread cookies, the warmth from the sun’s rays held me in their clasp, like a mother holding her young.
This mouse-colored home belonged to Grandma, a burly woman of 80. Her loose fitting dresses reached to her ankles. She had pudgy, bedpost legs that wobbled when she walked. Most times we found her in the rocking chair; her flaccid skin enveloped the chair. Her wisplike, vintage white hair was pulled off her face into a round knot in back. Her beady eyes were small, but had the panoramic view of a bird. She always knew where I was, and what I was doing.
She wasn’t affectionate, nor was she a disagreeable Grandma. She was like a painting of an old woman, except sometimes she moved. She was the only living grandparent I ever knew. In her house, I claimed her for my very own.
Carole Christman Koch grew up in Berks County and has been published in numerous publications. She has a passion for writing and has many stories from growing up on a farm to everyday stories.