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To Grandmother's House
I usually get stressed at night. I put all of my homework off until this particularly dark time of day, though not by choice. I can’t focus during the day, what with The Family doing this and that around the house. There’s usually a kid or two, friends of my little sister, running down the hallway screaming, slamming doors shut, sitting on the floor and screaming, crouching and screaming, or screaming while running toward a wall and ramming their short bodies into it. The ability to do work increases substantially as people start to wind down for the evening. The house quiets a bit, and my focus is able to redirect to work; chemistry, history or writing occur most often. This also means that all the homework that’s due the next day, all the preparation for the next day’s tests, everything that I need to be ready for on the next day tends to be completed after nine o’clock.
I usually begin these nights of tedious work by going outside to wind down myself. The night calms me. The sun can’t blind me or melt me; it’s totally dark save for the porch lights, streetlights, and the moonlight.
I look up to the moon on these nights, seeing stars that aren’t really there. I go back to a place I haven’t been in years, where I credit most of my stress-free years; the time before the divorces and drama took over my life. Before the extensive homework, the awkward encounters in the hallways, and the forced discovery of who my real friends are – the ones who I can really depend on. The time when I could depend on anyone and everyone, any time and every time.
The place I think most of is the cabin where my grandmother lived in before she moved West. It was made of log and sat on the property of her boss who had the name of a sound – Snip, or Snap, or something. The property was divided in two by a driveway that led to a three-car garage. Facing the garage, to the left was the massive main house, in which the boss with the sound for a name, her husband with a dull name (Tim or Tom or something) and her mother, Joyce, lived. To the right were the horse stables, where my grandmother’s horses stayed as well as those that belonged to the owners of the house. My grandmother had many horses, but the one that stands out the most was the one that I rode when I was a week old and last when I was twelve, a year before he died. This horse, light brown with a slightly darker mane, on one occasion walked up to me as I sat by the stables eating raisins out of a Tupperware container. He stuck his nose in, and ate them all. I ran into the stable, where my grandmother was at the time, and told her with a huge smile on my face what had happened. It was the same horse who, years earlier, had nudged my hand as it held my pacifier, sending it into the water bucket. I had promptly picked it up and stuck it back into my mouth.
The main house was made of log and had a living room that took up most of the space, a modest kitchen and dining area, a workout room, and, I assume (although I don’t remember it as well as the other rooms), a master bedroom. I remember a rocking horse that sat in the living room that I would ride for hours at a time when my parents and I would come over for a visit. I remember a bearskin rug that I took a great number of naps on, and I remember a stack of old workout videos in the workout room with the sky-blue carpet.
The front porch of the main house, which faced the path that led to my grandmother’s cabin, was the site of many pictures of me in my younger years. One in particular stands out in my mind – one of my grandmother and me, the husband and wife and mother-in-law, and my mom, on one of our visits to the property when I was no older than 4. It also had a good friend of my grandmother’s, and the friend’s mother, of whom I have a picture of with me sitting on her lap reading a Dr. Seuss book – Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?, I think. The porch had a huge swing and a few tables, on which I played many games of checkers and colored while the adults were elsewhere.
Going up the path to the right from the porch eventually led to a pool, misshapen stones of dark and light brown along its walls that made a random pattern. It was in this pool that I learned to swim, and where I first opened my eyes underwater, on purpose. I did this on the step that was positioned right off of the front porch of my grandmother’s cabin, also made of log, which was situated on the opposite side of the pool – in other words, the pool separated the two cabins once the path (made of brick if I remember correctly), met the pool deck.
No matter how hard I think, I can’t remember the interior of the cabin as well as I’d like to. I remember that right as you enter the cabin you walk into the living room, which had the furniture that my grandmother had for another ten years after she moved from the cabin to the West. On the far left wall of the living room was a beautiful fireplace, which we would light while we’d watch a movie on the nights I would stay with her. The kitchen I can’t visualize all that well either, but I do remember that there were gray cabinets that clashed with the log walls. The kitchen table must have sat behind the couch (the couch that faced the fireplace, and perpendicular to the front door), because on some nights we would watch game shows and CSI while we ate dinner.
Her bedroom had a giant wooden bed with a huge wooden footboard with spheres at the tops. She had a green comforter that matched the living room couches and the chair – she still has them today. I would sleep in this bed when I stayed with her, being woken up the next morning to her singing “Good morning”, a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats in her hand. I’d sit in the bed and eat the Wheats while we watched the morning news and she got ready to drop me off at home so she could go to work.
It would be very early in the morning when we would leave the cabin. It was always pitch black, the moon and stars still out. One morning I looked up at the sky and the stars, the sun not to rise for hours still, and for some reason, still unknown to me, my mind saved this image of the sky through the branches and leaves of the oak trees that surrounded the property, on this morning that the air was cool and restless.
We would move past the pool, up the brick walkway, past the main house and the stables, and cram into my grandmother’s little car. She turned on the heat and the radio, an album by a local blues band that I had come to enjoy (and still do to this day) coming on, keeping me awake on the ride home.
It was a time when I didn’t need to worry about anything – everything was taken care of for me; food, clothes, entertainment. Homework didn’t control my life and I didn’t yet know of the people who would pull my elasticity far enough to almost break me in half. It’s this reason that I look up into the night sky and think of this time, this place, these people and those animals, the misshapen stones that made up my first pool, and the old games of Mancala in front of the fireplace – because, just for a moment, as the memory comes in one giant wave and not an in-depth thought, I find peace in this little life of mine.