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Dream Big


My Grandpa (Bill, my mom’s dad) and his (third) wife Lorraine lived in this house throughout my childhood. My feelings about this house are so mixed. Looking at this photo fills me with joyful nostalgia, yet also with heartache. See, my Grandpa was an alcoholic. A happy drunk. But a drunk nonetheless. He’d wake up around 8am, transfer from his bed to his wheelchair, retreat to his spot by the window at the kitchen table, and crack open his first cold one (Pabst). He’d continue drinking throughout the day until he passed out in the late afternoon. Due to his drinking habit, my relationship with him was complex. I loved him. He was always kind to me. He was silly and playful and found delight in giving me whisker burns from his unshaven face. But I was judgmental of him. I was reprimanded once for standing up for my (step) grandma and sassing off to him when he beckoned her for another beer, as was typical. “Get it yourself,” I mumbled under my breath. And when I was skeptically questioned as to what I’d said I repeated it a little louder, but with less conviction. I think it was my grandma who actually snapped at me as she hastily served her husband another brew. [Eye roll] I wasn’t generally happy when my mom was desperate and needed them to babysit me. I didn’t feel at home there like most kids do at their grandparent’s homes. I felt awkward and out of place, bored out of my mind, and counted down the hours until my mom’s return. However, there were several positive things (and a couple odd things) that I recall from my days at Grandma and Grandpa’s home, too.

  • When the JC Penney Wish List catalogue would come to their house I’d spend hours looking through it circling all the items I wanted for Christmas. Dreaming about what it would actually be like to own each item – Easy Bake Oven, pretend kitchen, Cabbage Patch Kid.
  • Climbing the narrow, twisty stairs to my Grandma’s room upstairs. There was a loft area and then a door to her bedroom. I was completely intrigued by these rooms. So private and secluded from the rest of the house. The windy stairs were like a secret passageway. I imagined they were my bedrooms as I carefully rummaged through her jewelry boxes and sat on her vintage chair.
  • Meals on Wheels would come daily(?) to deliver prepared meals to my handicapped grandpa. The deliverers were always friendly to me and I liked how their most important role wasn’t bringing food to elderly people, but to spread some sunshine wherever they went. Stopping to visit for a bit, warming the room with their smiles, loving people without judgment of their house or circumstances. These caring people made an impact on me.
  • This property had a “party house” located on it. It had a fireplace and smelled like mildew. I was sorta terrified of it and the creepy bugs and animals that it housed. But I have a fond memory of being in there one time when my cousins were visiting for the week.
  • There was a large garage on the back of the property. Maybe 4-car garage or more? Above it was an apartment that was rented out to a 20ish year old woman, Kelly. I idolized her. She was beautiful and tiny and had a cute pixie haircut. I loved going to visit her when she was home. One time I was in her apartment and I had to run back to the house for something. When I returned, I thought it’d be hilarious to sneak up on her, so I slowly tiptoed up each step, careful not to make any noise. Kelly’s loud music made my sleuthy approach even easier. As I got just outside where she was, I leapt into the doorway screaming “Boo!” I scared her alright. But it was me who was even more terrified. I caught her dancing topless. I bolted down the stairs as she called after me to stop. And that’s when the wheels in my brain started clicking. Was Kelly a stripper? Did she work at The Sugar Shack?! My relationship with her was never quite the same after that striptease incident.
  • My grandma had a black lab that she absolutely worshiped. The dog was appropriately named Princess. As could be expected from her name, Princess was a nightmare. If you walked too closely behind her she’d threaten to bite you. Or simply just bite you. She cornered me upstairs a few times. Like she kept me frozen on the stairs with her snarling teeth so I couldn’t get back down to my grandparents. She was a piece of work. I confess, I wasn’t too heartbroken when she was ordered to be put down because she actually had bitten someone. So long, Princess!
  • There was a handicap-accessible ramp off the side of the house and it was the perfect place for my cousin Angel and I to ride our Big Wheels down.
  • Though I was too afraid of spiders to play on it, I loved the tire swing that hung (and still hangs) in the front yard.
  • I can still hear the sound of gravel crunching as cars slowly pulled into the driveway and drove down the long tire-marked path right past the kitchen window.

Oddities and all, I adore this house. It’s a dream of mine to buy it and remodel it to be a vacation home for my family and for family and friends to enjoy. I imagine giant hydrangeas blooming all around the home. A beautiful master bedroom in place of the unused dining room and my grandpa’s depressing bedroom. A safe staircase installed to two kids’ bedrooms upstairs.  A reconfiguration of the galley kitchen and wasted hallway space. New windows to overlook the gorgeous tree-lined property. A concrete driveway. And a perfectly-constructed outdoor entertaining area. Like I said “dream”. But I’m holding tight to it and believing that some day it could be a reality!

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