Friday, January 04, 2008

Though I dreaded it, last week I went to see my grandmother's house.

In the background to the right you can see the pink installation Brad Pitt set up to draw attention to his redevelopment project. I wasn't planning to go there at all. I prefer seeing it on the Today show. But my cousin Bebe-- yes, I have one--needed a ride to our house on Christmas and specifically asked if I would pick her up. So after seeing the art installation-- you drive through it like the natural disaster version of Great Adventure Wild Safari, eh-- I took a deep breath and headed toward my grandmother's since it was on the way.

There are still no street signs. The installation is located in the same spot my father's mother lived for a short while on Jourdan Street. It was a sturdy, paint-worn house with the biggest yard ever. There was a huge tree. And when I close my eyes I see the oak leaves above my head and hear the creaky gate. I remember the view from the yard into the kitchen door and I remember the taste of her cooking---try as I might I cannot make rice like she did. Perfect long grains and always the best gravy over just about anything. I used the map hardwired in my head since childhood to count how many blocks to North Derbigny and then over it one block or two? And now I'm disoriented. I look to my right and see a tan one story cottage with the remants of a terracotta colored roof. And I frown because that house is past my grandmother's...

I force myself to look to my left. I put the car in reverse and slowly back up the estimated length of three houses. That's where Gram house is. Was. I see a field of grass. In fact, I can see all the way past Reynes Street (pronounced like my name), Tennessee, and Deslonde to Brad's houses. That's when I look down to the pavement and see the numbers spray painted on the street.

This is where I drank six-ounce Cokes through a crazy straw; licked the cake batter out of the bowl while I watched Electric Company instead of going to school; soaked in the tub with Mr. Bubble and Zest soap, dried off with the 'good towels' and sprinkled way too much baby powder all over the floor. Here is where I tried on fancy hats, red lipstick, Estee Lauder perfume, and high heels then admired myself in a mirror with pictures of my cousins, shoulders draped in white fur stoles because they were graduating high school tucked in the corners.

Here is where I sat on the concrete porch playing jacks-- onesies and twosies while my Gram showed off by snatching eighties and ninesies before the ball hit the ground, flipping the jacks in the air and catching them on the back of her hand, then blowing my mind by doing the whole thing over but with a peach pit because she didn't have multicolored metal jacks and a bouncy rubber ball when she learned. It's where I slid around on the very same porch with the hose pipe in my Wonder Woman underoos while my PawPaw polished his new Impala. Where the rose bushes grew right up over the front window and the Claiborne Avenue bus passed all day and night long.

Here is where my grandfather mixed tobacco for his pipe sitting in his tweed covered recliner. And if I kissed his stubbled cheek and asked really sweeeeetly, he let me turn the huge, black and white, floor model Zenith to whatever I wanted. Even Mr. Rogers when the baseball game was on.

Here is where all my trophies from dancing school and science fair ended up on the dining room sideboard between the crystal punch bowl, fancy candle stickholders, dishes of peppermint candy, and bowl of big, fake plastic flowers.

This is where that is.


brunsli said...

I can't even pretend to say I know how you feel, but I had similar memories visiting my grandparents' empty house in Colorado Springs. Memories of grandparents are priceless.

muslimahlocs said...

i cannot even imagine what this must feel like. Allah really gifted us well with the ability to remember...even what we have lost.

Naturally Sophia said...

Of course, I will not even pretend to understand or even empathize(sp?). My maternal grandmother died when I was very young and I have only one clear memory of her. She was my last living grandparent and did not own any property at the time she passed. Although the worldly things have passed away, how blessed you are to have such vivid memories.

Bygbaby said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this stirring part of your life! That image is powerful & shows so with nothing much.

Here's to Bebe!!!!!