By Sherry Mathews
The four paneled glass window was always clean and dusty at the same time making it hard to appreciate the light from outside. I guess this statement could be the summary of what my grandmother’s house was, clean and dusty at the same time. There was a lot of pretending that surrounded that house; everyone pretended that grandmother wasn’t dying and everyone pretended, even though we all lived in different states, that the house was our real home.
There was a snap shot taken of me when I was four years old in my grandmother’s basement. In the picture I was standing in front of the door with the four-paneled glass window counting mason jars. When I was little it was so confusing to me that a basement could not only have a window but a door as well. I used to lay in bed upstairs and worry that a burglar or crazy person would sneak in through that windowed door, up the wooden stairs, past the dining room, up the blue carpeted stairs, and into my room. There could be fifty people in that house and it would still feel huge.&n bsp; This strange aspect of basement doors and everlasting space brought a magical feel to the house on the hill.
There was a mystery surrounding the house. Everything in it looked antique. There was a thimble collection, all of the furniture was made of oak, the bathtub stood above the ground, and the cracked paint piano had keys that didn’t work. The whole house smelt of mold and wood, which somehow equated into comfort in my four year old imagination.
The house made creaking noises at night. Manufactured noises. It was as if the creaking noises that promoted generations of ghost stories were actually built into the wooden house by my grandfather. What a mastermind he must have been to create a home for so many memories with his bare hands. I remember waking up on any given morning with the goal of getting to the kitchen unheard before anyone else woke up. My grandmother always kept a pan of individually sliced yellow cake with cream cheese icing in the refrigerator. I t always felt like I was pulling a fast one on the house when I had the chance to sneak a piece of cake.
The house was a legend. Every nook and cranny had a story and every generation of cousins was fooled by the “monster in the basement” story. The house was so magical that we all fooled ourselves into believing the story that the house wrote for itself; the “you can’t go on without me” story. Every ounce of pride we had for our family was invested in that house. Every ounce of love we had for our family was mutated into the house’s warmth.
Traditions were invented in that house. Babies were washed in the kitchen sink, siblings played together on the piano, and children rolled down the blue carpeted stairs. The rolling of Yahtzee dice was always heard coming from the group at the kitchen table and adults sat on the West Virginia porch and laughed so hard that they had to hold their coffee with both hands. Years were spent in that house growing our family’s foundation. That was our real home.
I remember the morning that my grandmother died. She had passed away in her sleep. I had to creep by her bedroom on the way to the cake filled kitchen. As I passed that morning I peeked in her room and saw her hand gently hanging inches from the creaking wooden floor. Weeks passed and the house’s comfort started to chill instead. It was as if the house died right along with my grandmother. The laughter stopped. The children stopped playing and the adults stopped holding their coffee with both hands. One by one we st opped taking our refuge in the house on the hill; the house that had been our foundation and history for so long. The magic stopped and now the ghost stories were real.
The house became heavy, too heavy for any family to keep. It became easier to leave our foundation behind and start a new one, a fresh one. Right before they tore it down I went to visit it one last time. It still smelt of mold and wood but there was no cake in the refrigerator and no cracked paint piano to play. The door with the four paneled glass window was still there and for the first time I opened the door to really see the light that came in through and it was beautiful. Just like my family and just like that house.
Sherry Mathews just graduated from the University of Central Florida with her B.A. in English and is now pursuing her Masters degree in Social Work. She has been dreaming of becoming a writer for the last 15 years. Contact Sherry.