All it took was one look at this picture and my entire childhood came rushing back like a tsunami. In a good way. My Aunt shared this on Facebook, and after looking at it a few moments and wiping away a few tears, I felt the need to share a little bit about my family. We aren’t perfect, we have our share of warts and drama, some of us more than others; but when I look at this picture and think of the people who once lived there, all I can think of are the amazing people that I am blessed to be genetically linked.
This was my grandparents house. It was their retirement home for their “golden years”. Yeah, THAT actually happens/happened. My grandfather retired after 42 years with the same company, sold the home my father and his sisters grew up in, and spent the next almost 20 years enjoying the life he and my grandmother built together. Taking into account the glitter-framed glasses I can’t help but wear when looking at my grandparents, they are what politicians are trying to sell you when talking about the “American dream.”(I’ll share a little secret with you. . . the government can’t give you that dream. You have to actually work for it and earn it. Just like my grandparents).
I was lucky enough to live in this house for a time when I was a child. It might seem strange to some that I say I was lucky when I tell you that I lived there when my parents first split up. Well I am genetically blessed from both sides because both my parents, together, approached the divorce with my wellbeing the priority. The splitting up of a family is traumatic under the best of circumstances; but my parents, grandparents, and this house eased the transition for me.
Thanksgivings, Christmases, and summer vacations, year after year I was able to come back to this house, be a child, play and forget about the reality of day-to-day life. Not that the rest of my life was crap, it wasn’t. I only lived in this house for maybe a year, and I lived in that town for only a few more years; but in my memories and in my mind, and in the part of my heart that will forever remain a child and believe in faeries. . . this house was majikcal. Just one look at a photograph and I feel. Happy.
The last time my whole family was together in this house was Thanksgiving of 1990, for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. I was on a ship just outside of the Persian Gulf during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I will forever be heartbroken that I missed it. The next, and last time we were all in the house together was the passing of my grandmother 5 years later. My grandfather passed on in 1992, but per their wishes no memorial or gathering was held until my grandmother rejoined her soulmate. That’s when we gathered at a spot on the coast, a place that holds so many memories and history for my family, and freed their ashes. Together.
Deaths and funerals often times bring out the worst in people, severing families forever. Not in this family. Not in this house. We bonded. We bonded over the good, and we bonded over the bad. But most of all we took what can be an awkward time, going through our parents/grandparents home and belongings, and bonded over our memories and histories as individuals and as a family.
My father has spent the better part of his life gathering our family genealogy into one epic story. Thanks to him we have a pretty detailed picture of our particular branch of humanity’s family tree. But at this last gathering, of the children and grandchildren, we really got to know my grandparents as people. What an amazing couple! And what an amazing life they shared, building a template for me as I found my way through my growing pains until I was able to meet my soulmate.
They never got to meet my husband. And my grandmother was the only one to meet any of their great grandchildren, just one, for such a short time. But I know they would have loved him AND my son. My grandfather would have really bonded with Bdawg, both being musicians and sailors. And both being quiet men. Like my Nana, I’m the mouthy one.
I have to credit my younger cousin for pointing out to me all of the neat things we were learning about our Nana and Grampa. She was the first to come across pictures of our Nana as a young woman wearing pants and when she was pregnant and showing that fact off. That was pretty radical in the 1940’s. So was the fact that it was my grandmother who took the bull by the horns after 8 years of courting and let my grampa know that he needed to come ashore and marry her, or she was going to be sailing in another ocean.
They really had a great life. They had adventures they shared with lifelong friends. We found pictures, letters, and journals of their “party days” when my grandfather was in a jazz band and a merchant marine; and my grandmother used her artistic skills pursuing her own educational and occupational dreams until getting married and raising a family. Nana had her radical side, but she was still a woman of her times with traditional and conservative values ( and I don’t use those words here as they are used today, but that is a topic for another post).
We read and viewed evidence of the sailing trips and coastal vacations they took with their friends, and with their friends and their growing families through 5 decades! We learned of their childhoods and our lineage through all of the furniture, pictures, papers, and family memorabilia that filled my grandparents home and life. We came together and celebrated my grandparents and our family. In this house.