Each year I spent time at Grandma Peebles’ house. It wasn’t a very big house. A rectangular shaped house with a
large front room and kitchen, a small hall with two bedrooms and a bath between them. The kitchen was kind of small with a wooden cutting board that pushed up into the cabinet. Grandma would pull that board out and I would sit on the stool and eat or “help” while she fixed our food. The pull-out was just the right height for me and I would beg to sit there if she made me a place at the table.
The best thing about going to Grandma’s house was the closet. You could enter the closet from the living room or from the back bedroom. It was a long skinny closet with bookshelves full of books, all manner of record albums, boxes of photos, old jewelry cases full of beads, clip-on earrings, watches, hair/hat pins, hats, coats, games and other items. By the time I was twelve, I had probably read every book on the shelves multiple times. Grandma would get out the photos and look at each one and tell me who was in each picture as well as a story about where they were when the photo was taken. We both spent countless hours going through the jewelry boxes and trying on the clip earrings and necklaces from as early as the 1920’s.
I loved rummaging around in the closet. There was always something new to me to find. Dress up clothes from eras gone by, pointy-toed shoes, yearbooks and old school books that had belonged to my mother with notes to and about her friends–always knowing that each item would elicit a story from Grandma.
We listened to music. Record albums full of songs like Blue Skies and Time After Time by Frank Sinatra, Bicycle Built For Two, songs by Elvis, Chuck Berry and Linda Ronstadt were stored in the closet. Music that would magically transform in my mind to beautifully clothed ladies dancing waltz and polkas.
She taught me to play dominoes and told me stories of my mom and aunts when they were kids. She let me read and lose myself in all kinds of books from mysteries, romance, adventure, the classics and many others. She would sit on the front porch and watch me while I played or ran down the road to the country store. We did silly things and laughed. It was a time of magic and freedom.
I remember when she died. It is the first funeral I remember attending. The cousins and I were stiff in our good clothes, we watched our parents and grandparents grieve without understanding what was going on. Ricky and I watched as our grandpa lifted her out of her coffin while crying uncontrollably. We were scared, awed by death and its power, sad without really know how to handle death and the emotions. Furtively we wiped our eyes. We wanted to offer comfort but didn’t know how.
1979 might have been the end of my visits and time spent with my grandmother, but the memories we forged will always be near.