Hi everyone! This week I wanted to do something a little different and share one of my short stories I am most proud of. I wrote this story two years ago now about my most treasured memories of my Oma and Opa’s house. Both of them and that house are so alive in my memory and I stay connected to them through my memories of the times we shared there together. (Oma and Opa is the Dutch version of Grandma and Grandpa for those who don’t know)
The title of my story is ‘Soul of a Home’ and written within that story really is a piece of my soul. I am sharing that piece this week with you and encouraging you to take a trip down your memory lane. I’d love to hear your favorite memories too, so leave me a comment below or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.
As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read and connect with me. I love reading your comments and appreciate your support!
Soul of a Home
From time to time I drive pass the place my grandparents used to live and occasionally I pull the car over on the side of the road to gaze. The house they lived in is gone but standing in its place is this massive structure that is almost too big to be called a house. It certainly dwarfs the humble home that once was located there. I take only a few moments to marvel at the amazing architecture, the beautifully lit marble plaque that lists the address and the black wrought iron fence that encompasses it all. It is kind of home most people would dream of: large, modern, and fancy. I imagine the inside to have state of the art appliances and perfectly decorated rooms. This is not the home I dream of; the one I dream of was built many years ago: a petite, old-fashionably understated, two bedrooms, one bathroom home, and it is perfectly preserved in my mind.
For as long as I can remember, every Sunday afternoon my Mom and I went to visit Oma and Opa. I remember driving on to the loose gravel driveway which was surrounded by huge, bushy trees. On sunny days, Oma would be in the yard weeding or planting new bulbs and Opa would be in the car port which he converted into his painting studio. I always felt this was sacred land, so much more special than every thing around it. The flowers always bloomed bigger and brighter; the paintings transported me to foreign and mysterious lands, stormy seas and serene forests. As I stepped foot into the entrance way of their house, I see the pink and green toned carpet running through the entrance, through the kitchen, down the hall towards the bedroom and bathroom: I see the hand painted “Oma and Opa’s House” wood sign hanging just above the doorway and the maple kitchen table covered in a pale blue, daisy patterned tablecloth. The living room off the kitchen holds the floral couch, two reclining chairs, one brown, one pink, both well used, the large black book-case which lines one wall and houses her favorite pieces of crystal, Dutch porcelain figurines and family photos. Off the living room, the master bedroom where Oma slept, separate from Opa because he snored too loudly and kept her awake. In the other direction off the kitchen, down the hallway, the first door leads to the basement, at the end of the hall, the door to the right is the one bathroom, the door to the left is Opa’s room, large enough to fit a single bed, small dresser and tiny bookshelf, where he keeps his precious things like his porcelain bull figurine.
Inside these walls, I find comfort and security. We would sit at the same kitchen table every Sunday and have our tea and Dutch almond tart, which was purchased from the same bakery they had been going to for decades. I never felt bored with this routine visit; I counted the days down to it. Somehow it made me feel grown up to sit at the table with my tea and tart and talk. This is what I imagined grown ups did and I wanted to be grown up. As time passed on, the visits went from strictly social to my Mom having to fill my Opa’s pill organizer every week with all his medication he needed. She’d take stock of what needed to be reordered and see what jobs needed to be done around the house. I started to realize being grown up wasn’t as glamorous as I had imagined it to be.
As the years went by, the less childlike I became and the more grown up I felt, but what I couldn’t have known then is how your perception of the world changes through grown up eyes. My Opa passed away in 1999 and my Oma moved in with us. Their house remained. My Oma couldn’t bring herself to sell it, believing her stay with us was only temporary. Days turned to months, months to years and every Sunday we went to their house just as we always had. These visits were not social; these were working visits. I helped mow the lawn, garden, touch up the house. From the outside anyone looking in at a quick glance would see the house living on like not much had changed. The mail in the mailbox, the newspaper at the door, the flowers blooming and dying off with each season change, but it wasn’t ever the same to me. I watched the back porch, slowly rot and begin to sag in sections like skin beginning to hang around a seventy year old’s neck. Many cracks would appear around the doorways and creep down the outside walls like wrinkles would form on a face. It seemed grumpier and would creak and moan with every foot step inside. Its windows had a milky layer on them, making it hard to see out of like cataracts. The house aged just like young to old.
We patch and cover ourselves with cosmetics; makeup or paint, Botox or spackle, trying to convince ourselves that we will both last forever. We fix ourselves up to show the world we are young and strong, but only those who live on the inside know our faults and weaknesses. Just as our bodies break down, so do the walls and floors of this house. Eventually both become irreparable.
The soul inside the house seemed to fade and constantly looked lonely. We knew that the life support system that had sustained its life thus far would no longer be enough. I was far too young to buy the house myself even though I wished I could. Given the history and its sad appearance, I was emotionally involved with this house and hated to have to see it go. I felt no one would ever see the house in the light I saw the house. They would never see the memories and feel the heartbeat of life that once pounded through it. Like once when it was much younger, it provided a roof for a husband and wife and their four daughters. After carefully considering our options, we put the house up for sale. It sold shortly after and soon after the new owners tore it down. On this sacred land stood another life; alien to me.
I make it a habit to reminisce about that lovely old house often. I wake from many dreams where I am back in the house on a Sunday afternoon and nothing has changed. Every figurine and picture is in the exact place they were all those years ago and this brings me peace. The child in my soul lives there and holds the memory of constant security. You cannot understand the fears you face as an adult when you are a child. When you are young, there is today and wild dreams of what tomorrow may bring. The biggest worry is play dates and fighting your siblings for attention. When you are older, there is today and an intrusive feeling tomorrow may not come. The reality of all the pain, hurt and injustice is too much to bear some times.
As often as I can, I pull my car over in front of that house and I walk through the front door. I sit down at the kitchen table and feel the security warm tea and a fresh almond tart brought to me. Here I cannot think of tomorrow, of pain or growing old. I live in that moment and in that childish perfection. I see both my Oma and Opa in the way I wish to remember them, healthy and happy. I see them taking care of me long before I ever knew that one day that I would have to help care for them. I see their house in its glory, not a belonging out of place, not a weed in the garden, not a fleck of dust or dirt. I feel my Opa’s hand on my shoulder as he looks over me to see the painting I’ve just completed. I see every happy moment that I refuse to stop thinking about every day for fear that one day I will wake up and have forgotten.
When my heart rate begins to slow, when my hands begin to unclench, when the sweat on my forehand dries, I return to the present time. In reality I know tomorrow is never a certainty and I ask myself what can I do today to ease this fear. When I get overwhelmed by small things like making decisions and living daily life and when I get overwhelmed by the big things like war and nature disaster, all I want is comfort and simplicity but I can’t keep escaping back to reminiscing to feel safe. When I wake up in the morning and I feel hopeless and scared of what is to come, I convince myself to believe like that house I will stand tall and strong, no matter how small I feel inside; I will build thick walls around me to keep all the elements at bay but I will carve a few doorways to let people outside in; and most importantly I will have many windows to let in the light.