Monday, February 20, 2012

Creative Grandmother Exchange

Linking with Lisa (she's awesome) for this week's Creative Exchange.  Thank you to our wonderful hostess. 

Camera in one hand, heart in the other.  That's the premise and this week for me, that certainly is true.

I sell houses.  Real Estate.  I don't like it.  It isn't a match for me.....I'm not meant to sell things but, I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, so I keep doing this hoping I'll figure out what I should be doing instead.  There's still time.  Retirement is only/still/at least 15 years away.


A week or so back my grandmother's old house went on the market.  It is currently owned by my aunt and uncle, so tho' it's been 10+ years since my grandmother passed....well, inside my brain and heart, it's still her house.  And within a day or two someone wanted to see it .  A potential buyer.  I was on tap for showing the property.  I hadn't been inside but once or twice since she passed.  Wow.

Because it's business and this is what I do, when the gentleman said "oh....this is a total "gut" job", it didn't bother me.  He's right.  There is a lot of updating that needs doing in an 1850's home (a lot).  But being in the space, she was still there.  And "gutting it" is gutting her, and my memories, and something irreplaceable.  After the showing I went out to my car and got my camera.  Just in case, you know, it was my last time being there with her.  Alone.

The Front Doors
Front Doors

I didn't take a lot of photos, but some things just struck me as "her"....that when I saw them, I felt her presence, like an angel.

I noted that I knew where to reach for a light switch, or where the floor dipped, or when an old glass doorknob had been changed for something updated.  I saw the ugly wallpaper still hanging in the living room, and the window where she would sit and look out from her rocking chair.  It was hard not to see those things.

Turn Gently
Turn Gently

I stopped at the beautiful etched glass in the front doors-yes two-and took a variety of photos.  It was only later when processing them I remembered we (my cousins and myself) were NOT allowed to touch the doors.  At all. Yet, they pulled me in as her.


The old cast iron stove still sits in the kitchen.  When I would spend the night in the unheated upstairs, she would send me to bed with a brick from the oven wrapped in a dish towel that warmed the sheets and my feet.  Tho' the butterfly bedspreads are long gone, I could still see them.  I'm sure they are still there.  I can almost touch them-feel their stitches, see their varied colors-if I close my eyes.

Grandmother's Stove
Grandmother's Stove

Measure Up
Measure Up

On both sides of the door that leads from kitchen to barn (with a screen door that goes "slam" in the summer), my aunt and uncle have kept the measuring "device".  I found my name with the others.  I found her name too maybe at her majestic height of 5'2" something or other, or at the height she shortened to as her years went into the 80's and then the 90's.


There she is "Gaga" surrounded by the next generation, the great-granchildren.  My aunt and uncle's grandchildren.  I wonder if they know my generation had "hipped" her up to just "Gug".

On my way out, locking the door she forever left unlocked and "open" I found her on the screened porch overlooking the yard where whiffle ball was played and where I pushed the red lawn mower back and forth every other week for $15 dollars.  I saw the tree, now better than 20 feet high, an Arbor Day gift that arrived in a styrofoam coffee cup from a third grade classroom.  In the raw February wind I saw the amazing flower gardens, now long gone, that she tended summer after summer.

She Sat Here
She Sat Here

I don't fault my aunt and uncle for selling their/her house.  I totally understand and I know from my time in the real estate business, a house is not a home.  But I do cherish the chance I had to be with my grandmother again for just 20 minutes or so.  Just she and I rambling around in that big house.

I think I was her favorite....either that or she was the kind of grandmother that made every grandchild believe that.  I do know, she was my favorite, even though she was my only grandparent-had I had 100, she would still have been number 1 to me.

*On another note....the potential buyers did make an offer, but it was very low, so the house remains on the market.  Perhaps a buyer will come along that won't find it a "gut job";  a buyer who delights in old homes and who will update the house, my memories, and "Gug" with tenderness. 

I'm afraid that this week, my heart was in one hand AND in the other and that my camera was just a device hanging 'round my neck.  I do appreciate the read anyway and give thanks to Lisa for this forum to share....and to you for any comment you wish to make.


Susan said...

Oh my goodness! Love her Gas oven, and the pretty door, and wonderful memories. It sounds like she was a great grandmother, and I'm sure you were her favorite. :-) I "know" I was my grandmother's favorite, so maybe it's a Susan thing?

So glad you snapped some pictures, and I hope that someone will come along and love this wonderful home as much as your family has.

gina said...

I am very sentimental, so your story really affected me -- I am also a grandmother. What an emotional many memories in your grandmother's house! The pencil markings are so poignant, and I love those windows in the door -- beautiful capture! I hope the buyer of the house will be someone who sees the treasures, and will restore and not tear down.

Scrappy Grams said...

The minute you "walked" through the door I started crying, not just tearing up, but crying. My granddaughters miss our big house in the country; so full of cherished memories. But we sold it when my husband developed heart problems. I'm glad we did it then, and that I didn't have to cope with his death and selling a house too big for just me. (It was 3 stories.)
I'm so glad you took the time to take a walk down memory lane with your grandmother just one more time.

Becky said...

Wonderful shots and sharing of your time with your grandmother - I feel like I have a better sense of you and her. Makes me wish I had some similar shots of my home growing up. Thanks for taking us with you!

laura said...


Your words and pictures brought tears to my eyes. So many memories. As hard as this was for you, I am so glad that you had the time with Gug alone in her space.I am glad you felt her spirit with you as you journeyed through her home and the wonderful memories, all the love she had for you lives deep inside. Such a gift you have my friend . I so appreciate your heart and your open hand. You were blessed with one very special grandmother !. Love you!

helena said...

how wonderful that you had the chance to record these special parts of the house that bring back such memories.

I love the photos that I have of the little details in my grandparents house that bring back memories of childhood visits

Nadege, said...

So many memories. Must be so sad to have to sell the house, I'm glad you got the chance to take all these wonderful photos.

Linda said...

Somehow, someway, you must print and record this. It is beautifully moving and a treasure. I spent last weekend in the home that belonged to my grandparents in their later years, now occupied by my 83 year old aunt. It has been well cared-for, and still has the essence of Granny there, but I had never thought to capture the photos as you did. Great job today - and glad you got the opportunity to photograph your memories. Thank you for sharing.

lisa said...

I've read this 4 times now, and I know I'll be back to read it again. Without getting into a long explanation here, you have no idea just how much I can identify with this post.

Thank you for tugging at my heart so thoroughly, and for sharing this beautiful post with us this week at The Creative Exchange.

Have a wonderful day!


Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

What a neat house, it has so much character, something a 'McMansion' could never offer.

Thanks for sharing your memories. It touches our hearts.

Carol Blackburn said...

That is so beautiful, Susan. What an incredible post you made today. Sharing such intimate thoughts about your Grandmother. Reminded me of my own beloved Polish Grandmother who called me "buttinski." Did you have a nickname?

justine said...

what a lovely post, I could so imagine the whole thing with you and all those memories and emotions you have! you should make a small book for everyone before the house is sold. Wonderful photographs and they are all so much more special because of what it means to you.

Brenda said...

Ahhh, gee - this one made me cry. The way your memories have brought to life such a wonderful woman and the positive impact she had on your life. I'm so glad you were able to spend time with your camera, capturing your heart and her memories in this way.

seabluelee said...

Oh, Susan. I think this is the most powerful post I've ever seen you write. I made the mistake of reading it at work, just before being relieved for lunch, and I could hardly give instructions to my coworker for the tears in my eyes and throat. Your memories and these images -- and the house! -- are so beautiful. When I read the words "gut job," I felt like I'd been gutted. I'm praying someone will buy the house who will love it and treat it as it deserves. And I'm so glad you (and your camera) had the opportunity to spend some time revisiting your grandmother in that special place.

Rosie said...

What a wonderful post, Susan! Thanks so much for taking me around and sharing your memories with me! The photos are so beautiful, especially with your stories!

LeAnne said...

My grandmother has been on my mind a great deal lately, and just this morning I was thinking about the last time I was in her house - the day we auctioned it and all her possessions. What a beautiful essay and it is great that you had the opportunity to take a few photos. I wasn't into photography when my grandmother died and it is only in my mental snapshots can I imagine what compositions I would come up with if I had the chance.

Anita Johnson said...

What a beautiful home and your photos did it justice. The homes I grew up in were sold long ago, and we talk about downsizing one day too. I'm not good with changes...and i wouldn't be good at selling real estate either. (o:

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Excellent and beautiful photographs.

Regards and best wishes

Zinnia said...

What a lovely and bitter-sweet story of the times with your grandmother. Memories to treasure indeed... and how lovely to take photos of all the spots and objects that meant so much in tribute to her.
I hope that someone may just come and feel the soul of that house and want to retain the beauty which is already there.
I enjoyed this walk down your memory lane and seeing the touching photos so well captured.

RainCityGirl said...

I absolutely love how you catured the essence of Gaga and her home. The photos and the words are stunning. A beautiful rememberance of her home the memories it holds

sunflowerkat321 said...

I was captivated by this post! I grew up very rooted in Southern Indiana. My grandmother lived just two blocks from us in a very old house like this. I was imagining what it would be like to be in her home again...the way it was when she was there...and to feel all the love that is part of the familiarity. I'm thrilled for you that you had this special time to be there with her spirit and your memories. And I'm glad you had your camera to preserve bits of your childhood that still exist there.

Deborah L. Tisch said...

Simply beautiful.

The images, the words, the memories you shared.

I feel privileged to have been there with you.