The last time we lived here, five years or so ago, I worked at the newspaper in town, selling classified ads. One day Jennifer, a coworker from another department, came over and asked me to rerun her ad for puppies they were trying to give away. When I pulled up the ad there was a photo of the pups with it, and it struck me that the linoleum on the floor of her house looked just like that at my grandparents'. We laughed about how crazy that was, I placed the ad again, and then we went about our day.
A few weeks later, I came home from work to find our new phone book in the mailbox. I took it in with me and set it on the kitchen table. It sat there for several weeks, since at that time having a cleared-off kitchen table was not my highest priority.
Eventually, there was a pile of things on the kitchen table that I could no longer ignore, and so I began to put things where they actually belonged. On the bottom was that heavy phone book. When I picked it up, it slipped out of my hand. As I grabbed for it I caught one page, which ripped out of the book as the rest of it fell to the floor. It was the Z section, but what caught my eye was my grandparents' old address on Springtree Road printed on the page. The house had been sold a few years before when my grandfather decided to move into a retirement home.
When I looked at the name of the person living there then, it was an unusual, but familiar last name - it was Jennifer, who was giving away the puppies. That linoleum floor we laughed about was my grandparents'.
The next day at work, I told her that my grandparents had built that house and asked her if I could come and see the renovations they'd made. A day or two later, I went over to visit after work.
So many things were the same and so many were different. The pine paneling was still there in the living room and kitchen, but the carpet was different (good idea, that). In the bathroom, they had removed all the original tile and put up pure white tile. The original tile was sort of a weird tan/flesh color, so I could understand that too. They put in a fancier bathroom sink, which was good because the original one had the hot and cold taps separate - though I used to love drinking the sweet well water that came out of that cold faucet after I brushed my teeth.
The whole time, I wanted to cry with gratitude for the things they kept the same and cry for the loss I felt at the things they changed. Jennifer chattered away the whole time about how they'd painted this or how it was a pain to get rid of that. Her words fluttered around my head, but I couldn't hear them. I could barely breathe. Then we went into my grandmother's bedroom.
They had taken the dated paneling off the walls and painted the bumpy plaster. There was a bed in the corner so that it filled the room diagonally (if that makes sense), which Grandmama had done as well. They had a dresser and that's about it; it's a small room. All that was fine, it was cute, even. It didn't bother me. But when I looked at the closet - they had kept the original door and the doorknob. Plain brown-stained, wood door, simple metal doorknob. Jennifer invited me to look inside and, as my hand reached for the doorknob, time and space blurred and I was 10 years old, sneaking into Grandmama's closet to steal a stick of Juicy Fruit out of her purse and try on a pair of her shoes from the 60s.
Grandmama didn't like me to go in her closet, but sometimes I snuck in anyway. I'd close the door in case she came into the room. I'd pull the chain to turn on the light and go through the few fashionable clothes she'd saved from years before. I'd put on the garish-colored lipstick she kept in her purse. Sometimes, if I was positive nobody was around, I'd come out and look at myself in her full-length mirror - lipstick more or less on, walking clumsily in too-big heels. If she caught me in there, she'd shoo me away, acting like she was mad though I don't think she really was.
As I turned the doorknob, the scent of the closet hit me immediately. They could've completely gutted that entire house but no way could they ever rid themselves of the scent of that closet. I can't describe it other than to say that the smell was the combination of musty and dusty with a dash of perfume from 1965. It almost knocked me off my feet, almost sent me crawling into Jennifer's bed like I did when I was 10 and my hamster died - rolled up in a quilt in Grandmama's bed, crying the afternoon away, positive that nothing was ever going to be the same again.
At that moment, Jennifer's husband arrived home from work. I was relieved to rush out of my grandmother's room and back to the kitchen to meet him, where at least the visions of cold, winter mornings warming up in front of the stove while the bread toasted and 30 Thanksgiving dinners couldn't accost me with their actual scents. Wes was immediately in tune with how I felt about the place and how I was feeling at that moment. His parents had bought the house from my grandfather, and he lived there with a roommate while he was in college. Then when he married, the roommate moved out and Jennifer moved in.
Wes was very kind. Jennifer was nice too, but she didn't seem to realize how emotional all of it was for me. I didn't stay long after that. I really just wanted them to leave and for me to have the place. I always meant to have that house, to buy it from my grandfather. Though I never want to live in that town again, I still want that house. I will always feel as though it belongs to me.
At Christmas this year, my brother was in town, and he drove by the house on Springtree Road. It's been sold again and now a family lives there. The back is fenced in now and there are kid's toys in the yard. This is as it should be. If I can't have the house, then a family should have it. I hope they're so very happy there. I hope they can feel what a happy home it always was for me.
As you can probably tell, I'm quite hooked on nostalgia. So I'm entering this post into Hooked on Fridays at Julia's blog. If you want to know what other people are hooked on this week, check out the other sure-to-be-fabulous posts. And if you're here from Hooked on Houses, please take a moment to say hello if you can. I'd love to hear from you.