I was six months old when it was purchased. Mom says we went to Sears and Roebuck the day of the big move and a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal was purchased for me. I, apparently, chewed the nose off on the way home from the store.
Our family moved alot through my younger years. I lived in several different houses. But Mam-ma's and Granddaddy's house was always the same.
It was home. For all of us.
I don't know if you've ever had a place of unconditional acceptance and favor. For me, it was 3005 Byron. The door was always open, or I could use the secret key. My favorite ice cream was waiting in the fridge and the remote control was available to command!
Mam-ma and Granddaddy always had time. Time to visit. Time to laugh. Time to re-tell our stories and listen to our tales.
To capture my experiences in their home would take a lifetime of words.
Heritage, I guess. My faith, my confidence, my understanding of family and forgiveness and God...much of it was nurtured and shaped in those walls.
Also, my love of a clean kitchen.
Precious Mam-ma. She LOVED clean. When I was in elementary school, they built on to the house. I remember well all the many discussions of dimensions, and rocks for the fireplace and kitchen cabinet colors (orangey-red!). Mam-ma was thrilled with the outcome and bragged on Granddaddy's generosity.
She was also very happy about the stainless steel sink. I remember her choosing it. It was much better than the off-white enamel of the original kitchen, she said. She oohed and ahhed over the stainless steel and how shiny it was. So CLEAN!
I stood over that sink many, many times. Washing dishes, rinsing dishes, "helping" Mam-ma cook. I loved it when the dishes were done and she would wipe the sink down with the towel. It seems, the stainless steel sink salesman had mentioned that drying the sink would make it last longer. So Mam-ma faithfully dried, daily.
After it shone, she would sigh and say how happy a clean kitchen made her feel. I equated, in my young mind, a shiny sink with happiness and contentment.
She would then, pick up her glass of iced tea, wrap a napkin around the bottom of it and play cards with me at the bar. (NOT a drinking bar, mind you, a BREAKFAST bar!)
Mam-ma would comment on everything. She was funny. Hilarious really. And she was thrilled when we, the grandkids, were around. I felt like that house was for us, somehow. That's how she and Granddaddy made everything feel.
On our furlough, I stayed at Mam-ma and Granddaddy's house for the last time. My family and I slept there. My kids ate at the bar, lounged in the den and looked at all the old pictures with me.
As I loaded up card tables with sale items and tearfully removed photos from the walls, my mind was awash with every comment Mam-ma made about the things around me.
"Come in this house!"
"Come look at these new curtains, Cheryl!"
"Your Granddaddy loves to buy things for me! Isn't that grand?!?"
"I baked a good 'ole cake today! Have a piece!"
"Your ice cream is in the fridge."
"Wash your hands before you cook in my kitchen. My friend wipes her nose with her hands while she cooks. Isn't that awful?!?!"
"Want to play cards?"
"Let me tell Granddaddy you're here. It's hot outside and he needs a break!"
"Will you get that phone for me?"
"Dry the sink up. I want that stainless steel to last!"
"Don't rush off!"
Words that became like breath to me. So secure. So safe.
Mam-ma went Home some years back. Granddaddy struggles through pneumonia as I type. That house, those words...the life of that place will never be the same.
And neither will I.
I don't know if they could ever understand how important they are to me. What a treasure their life and story is to mine. How very effected I am today by these memories.
How very much I want to be holding Granddaddy's hand.
Leaving the house was painful for me, last August. Just like the day we lost Mam-ma, it was the kitchen that drew me in.
I cleaned as Jeff loaded the car. The kids had already left with Nana and Papa and I was thankful for the moment alone. Jeff finished his tasks and seemed a little confused at my time and attention to every detail of a kitchen soon to be renovated or sold.
It felt methodical to me. The washing of the cabinet. It was not my hands I saw. But hers. Granddaddy's generosity. Mam-ma's cooking. The warmth of a home I'll never forget. The place on the cabinet where the cake always sat. The shadowed imprints where the plaques hung abover the sink. The smell of the towel drawer.
It was the last thing I had to do. But my tears were pouring on it.
Jeff gently suggested we get on the road. And with grieving determination I breathed in each scent of that precious place. Each sight and memory and word...
I tucked them away.
Dried the sink.
And quietly said goodbye.
The ice cream bowls are in my cabinet now. The ice cream scoop, I now see everyday. The kitchen plaques hang in East Africa on my rented walls.
Reminding me, that some of the greatest gifts I've received in this life are not things at all.
Unconditional favor, acceptance, adoration and love...from Mam-ma and Granddaddy. As Grace from God.
And, just as they would expect and be proud of...that is what I have to pour out too.
An open door. Joy. Laughter. Welcome. Funny comments. Great food.
And always, always...
A shiny sink.