When you’re a military brat (and I’m sure in many other kinds of childhoods, too), home is an ephemeral concept. I could say to you “I’m so excited to be going home this weekend!” and unless there have been other context clues in the conversation, that could mean any number of cities (or states!). But for me, my true home is Grandma’s house.
I’ve written other posts from the house in Brooklyn (MD) but never a post about the house in Brooklyn. For me, this house will always be Grandma’s house, even though my aunt has lived here now for at least seven years.
It’s honestly nothing that special to the trained eye. A rancher in Brooklyn Park, MD. Full basement. Sizable yard, good porch, driveway but no garage. But for me, it’s home more than any other place.
It hasn’t always been “Grandma’s house.” My (great-great-great?)-uncle Charlie (pronounced Chah-lie if you’re from Balmer – R’s usually belong only at the end of words) built it in (according to Zillow) 1964. When his wife died, he asked my great-grandparents to move in with him (he was really old. Like 90s) and help him keep up the house. When he died, the house became theirs.
So I guess, for my aunt, uncle, and father, this house, too, for a time, was “Grandma’s house.”
When my great-grandmother died, my great-grandfather asked my grandparents to move in with him. When he died, the house became theirs. Noticing a theme?
I enter this house’s life a few years before my great-grandfather (Pop-Pop) died. Some of my earliest memories involve eating strawberries at the kitchen table (the table that is now in my own apartment) and sneaking him 5th Avenue bars out of the fridge (if I could nab two without getting caught, I got to eat the second one. What a good Pop-Pop).
After my great-grandfather died, my grandparents remained in the house. The house became known in my head as “Gramma and Grampa’s house.” It was the house where everyone came for holidays and birthdays. I have vivid memories of spreading out newspaper on the kitchen table and 15 people cramming around a table that normally sat 6 to eat blue crabs. Christmases were in the living room with every chair in the house dragged in so we could open presents.
It’s the house where my name is pronounced “Hally” (O’s don’t exist in Balmerese. If you want a good laugh, get me to pronounce “Orange”). Where “Oh my gaaaaaaad” can mean anything from surprise to empathy. Where if something amazing happened, someone would yell out “Hot dog!”
I slept in the bed in “Grandma’s room” the night before my flight out to California last thursday It hasn’t been Grandma’s room in nearly eight years, and the bed in there now certainly isn’t the one I jumped up and down on as a kid when the adults weren’t looking. The bed promptly broke… and I had to frantically help my cousins put it back together (and by help, I mean play lookout).
My aunt moved back in sometime after my grandfather died (again… common theme) in 2001, and around 2007, my grandmother had to move into a home. It’s really my aunt’s house now, but it’s almost impossible for me to think of it that way. And I think that’s the case for my cousins too. Cousin E. asked my aunt if I was staying with her that night or in “Grandma’s room.” That’s what got me thinking about writing this post.
Another early memory is sleeping in my pop-up playpen in my grandmother’s room. It was a special treat instead of sleeping in the “middle bedroom” with my parents. And then later, sneaking episodes of Sliders and Boy Meets World with my older cousins when my parents had deemed me “too young” to watch such things. I better not mention all the Ren and Stimpy… My dad reads these posts.
I’m heading back to Baltimore today from Orange County. Landing at 1:05 a.m. EDT, so I’m sure I’ll want to do nothing but sleep once I get back. And as with many other trips and stays, my aunt is picking me up at BWI and taking me home. Home to Grandma’s house.