I live in the house made of nostalgia.
My grandmother’s house stands like a neon green memorial to her simple country life. Built in 1963, so little has changed inside or out that crossing the threshold feels a bit like stepping back in time, or unearthing a cinder block time capsule.
On the front porch sits one of the original pews from the little country church down the road, the church where my granny’s name can be found listed as a charter member, the church where she’s buried. My father and his four brothers called it the “Bench of Truth”. Whenever mischievous country boys had gotten themselves into trouble they were confined to the bench until the old welding truck pulled up carrying my grandfather home from his daily blue collar toil.
The centerpiece over the fire place, by all accounts understood tacky at its conception, has hung for 50 years because it was homemade by my grandmother’s sister – a housewarming gift. The sister my Alabaman granny followed down to the swamps of south Georgia as a young woman, both of them marrying Georgia boys.
The Wall O’ Grandchildren has greeted me my entire life. I’m pictured nine times, but never after the age of four, when my parents divorced. I never realized that until this year.
The only wall in the entire house that’s not cinder block stands in the dining room and is still plastered with the wallpaper my grandmother picked out in the 60’s.
Every night I sleep in her bed. Every day I cook with her pots. And often times I wonder what it was like to raise five boys out here in the country fifty years ago. No air conditioning, canning tomatoes and putting up corn in the hell of a south Georgian summer.
I’m just too citified, too modern. And though I routinely try to imagine what a different world once encompassed this house, my imagination fails me.
But I don’t take it for granted. I sit here this morning warmed by the same fireplace she warmed by. I watch my dad lovingly water the Easter Lilies each year that she tended.
We were never close, me and her. I was yanked from this side of the family so young and the few visits I was allowed are a combination of timid and intimidating in my memory. But I know she loved me. And I know she prayed that one day I would be reunited with my dad.
She’s been gone 20 years. But last night my children slept under the same roof as their grandfather, and one of them was wrapped up in the quilt she made and designated for me a lifetime before I was able to claim it.
This morning my kids ate cornflakes from her old corelle cereal bowls and sat at the table where she rolled out her famous homemade dumplings.
Our two lives had very little overlap in one sense. And yet she continues to bless me.
I guess that’s what it’s like to leave a legacy.