Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Through the woods to Grandma's house...

For the past two weeks I've been staring at my computer background, halfway between smiling and tearing up.

It's not your traditional computer backdrop. It's a photo from the Thanksgiving Monday and a sojourn to the north, two hours to be exact, to my grandmother's home town of Markdale. It's the home of Chapman's Ice Cream, Steven's BBQ and the quaintest town you've ever seen.

The main street hosts a few choice shops, my favourite "Peek Thru My Window," in existence for over 20 years and that is the last time I spent any time in the place. There's the old firehall, now an information centre, a Food Town where Gramma did all of her shopping and two churches just steps from each other, like there's hope that religious entities can co-exist in a small space.

It's also where my grandmother lived, my father's mother, and where my brother and I spent many happy a summer picking raspberries in the back garden and yelling down the heat grates from the bedroom upstairs to see what was on the breakfast menu. I know that tonka trucks and cars were also dropped down the grates, often narrowily missing the porridge pot on the stove.

I still have the memories but it's also the house that I miss, the insatiable need to slide down the bannister, complete with large wooden ball at the end. There's the country kitchen that seems so much smaller than I remember, the back bedroom where the daddy long legs always seemed to be in abundance.

I paid my respects to the house on this Monday, taking The Man and Boyo the Boxer to meet it. And, I was a little nervous to mount the front steps and introduce myself to the now-owners. The house was sold in the mid-80s, out of the family that had been its caretakers since the late 1800s. It had proven too much to maintain. The pipes always froze in the winter, the roof was needing replaced and it was too big for my diminutive grandmother who was starting to forget to eat, forget to throw out spoiled food and even how to cook her famous meals of salmon sandwiches, chili and roast beef. Porridge was almost never on the menu anymore.

The owners were really gracious, recognizing the last name that had been permanently etched a hundred times over in the brick wall of the side porch. My great uncle, grandfather, brother and a slew of other family members too long gone from memory. They're all still there, watching over the homestead.

I was very upset way back when my grandmother was considering selling the house. It was my home away from home, my place to yell down the heating grates that once had pipes running through from the wood burning stove in the kitchen.

My grandmother died in 1989 from emphysema, from years of smoking and bouts of asthma. She was 78. And it was back in 1989 that I had even stepped foot in the town where my grandmother lived. It was comforting to see that it hadn't changed that much - a few changes in businesses, new lines painted on the road but the same small town feel was intact. I felt instantly comforted. The fact that the new owners offered me a beer helped too.

What touched me the most as I walked up to the door with a whole bunch of Nervous Nellies floating around in my belly was that my grandmother's door knocker, full of brass and very lion-like was still there - a testament of who came before. The door had been given a new paint job, red with passion, and the old green indoor-outdoor carpet had given way to a concrete landing, but the door knocker remained.

I knocked on the door with that door knocker, a lion's share of memories still intact and I was instantly transported to my five-year-old self playing Nicky Nine Doors with my grandma. I only wish she would have answered the door.

** Photos finally posted. Procrastination strikes again!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post. I'm sure it was really bittersweet to walk through the house with someone else's stuff around. But I'm sure your grandma was smiling somewhere as she watched you do it.