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My dad recently decided to sell the old family homestead.
The last time I was there was right after the death of my precious grandmother. The house was to be rented, and my job was to clean it before the new tenants arrived. The task proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.
When I was a child, I always knew grandma would be waiting for me on the front porch. As she got older, she would greet me at the door.
When she started to become frail, I would let myself in, but she was always anticipating my arrival, and her beautiful face was the first thing I would see.
This was the first time in my life that she wasn’t there to greet me.
As I was vacuuming, I saw a small pill buried in the carpet. I held it in my hand, remembering all the times I would move her chair and look for pills she thought she had dropped.
As I swept the upstairs, I remembered sitting on the edge of the bed with her and crying over some old photos we found shortly after my grandpa died.
As I cleaned the downstairs bedroom, I remembered the morning we found my grandfather had passed away in their bed. And I remembered holding her hand when, for the first night in 44 years, she went to bed without him.
As I sat in the dining room floor eating the lunch I had packed, I remembered hiding under the table and playing peek-a-boo with her. Another time, I hid there because I was afraid of a thunderstorm. But she sat in a chair next to the table and sang, “Oh, Jesus is the rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm.”
As I wiped out the kitchen cabinets, I removed the different items that had been taped inside.
The recipe for friendship bread; the list of foods she couldn’t have on her renal diet; and an old “Hello My Name Is” tag that my grandpa had stuck there after some event he attended.
He passed away 14 years earlier, and she never had the heart to take it down. Now it was my responsibility.
As I vacuumed the room she used for storage, I picked a Christmas ornament hook out of the carpet. The Christmas memories came flooding back. We baked hundreds of cookies every year.
She kept tins of every child’s and grandchild’s favorite Christmas treat. Mine was the Peanut Butter Blossoms with the Hershey’s Kiss in the center.
Even though my parents were quite poor, I always got the one item I wanted most for Christmas. Roller skates, fancy jewelry box, Dancerella doll – she made it all possible.
As I sat on the front porch, listening to the birds and smelling the fresh after-rain smell that takes me back to childhood, I remembered when she brought my little table and chairs outside and we had a fancy tea party.
Then I noticed the hundreds of dents in the aluminum siding, just behind the old porch swing. I remembered how she would say, “We mustn’t let the swing bang the house or your Poppaw will be upset!”
Then we would crash into it again because I wanted to go higher.
I sat on the porch steps and looked out over the yard. There used to be a huge garden and a strawberry patch. I remembered working in the garden and saving earthworms for my uncle’s fishing.
Grandma pulled one out of the ground and exclaimed, “I found a big one!” Then she flung it across the yard because it was a snake!
We canned vegetables and jellies and jams. We picked gooseberries and raspberries and rhubarb for pies. We snapped beans while sitting in the porch swing. We made homemade strawberry ice cream on the side porch.
I walked out to the mailbox one more time. Not because I thought there would be any mail, but because I walked it so many times with my grandma.
She always wore one of her many head scarves when she went to get the mail, and I always got to pick one, too. My favorite was bright pink, and she would tie it snugly under my chin before we set out.
The memories were overwhelming and precious. I felt deep sorrow and yet such thankfulness to God that I was blessed all those years with this wonderful woman as my grandmother. I hope the new owner of her house makes as many precious memories for his own family.
Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Contact her at email@example.com. The views in this column are those of the writer.