I found out yesterday that my grandparents’ house in Wichita, Kansas is up for sale. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, probably not since high school. Grandma Ruth sold it in 1992 and moved to be closer to my family.
I learned about the sale online. I was thinking about the house a few days ago and wondered if I could find it on Google Earth, but I didn’t know the address. So while talking to Dad yesterday, I asked him if he remembered the address. Of course he did; he can tell you what the temperature was on July 17, 1962. So I got on Google and looked it up.
It was strange to be looking at an aerial view of a house I hadn’t been to for more than 20 years, and to immediately recognize every detail – the back patio that grandpa built, the garage we re-shingled one summer, the back yard where were I played one morning in new sandals that we had bought the day before. There was the back door – I remembered coming home from a trip to the zoo, walking in the backdoor with the family, up the stairs into the kitchen, and finding a note from my great-aunt Evelyn, grandma’s sister. She had stopped by, found grandma’s note saying that we’d gone to the zoo, and had written us a little poem about the zoo. Mom got such a kick out of that, so impressed with how funny and clever Evelyn was.
The back yard looked different. I couldn’t find the big brick grill/barbeque that Grandpa had built, where I loved to climb up and sit. But of course it would be different, someone else has lived there since 1992, but I was annoyed by the changes. Even though they’ve been gone for years, it’s still my grandparents’ house. In my mind I can see all of us at the table eating cold cut sandwiches, and Grandpa on the couch with his pipe. The television belongs in the corner by the window of the front room and the piano is on the opposite wall, with a picture of my mother in a long silky dress. Little plastic soldiers and farm animals that belonged to Aaron and Barry sit on the kitchen window sill. The tile on the bathroom floor is blue and white, and there is a big old style bathtub with claw feet. I loved it. To this day I want the same kind of tub in my home.
The phone is in the dining room, and next to it is a little device that holds the receiver to make it a speaker phone. That was great when they called because we could talk to both of them at once. There’s also a hutch in the dining room with all of grandma’s knick-knacks, and a white dish always full of Brach’s candy, caramels with different fillings, coconut Neapolitans, and hard cinnamon and butterscotch candies (Courtney has the dish now; it was the one thing he asked for after Grandma passed away).
Marla and I usually slept on cots in the living room. I could hear the cars passing on the street out front. On the farm nights are perfectly quiet. Sometimes, when I was still awake after everyone else was asleep, the silence was lonely. My little girl mind thought that I was the only person on earth. So when I was in my grandparent’s living room, I’d lie on my cot and listen to the cars. It was comforting.
The street is still there, of course, but everything, everyone else is gone. We’ve grown up and spread ourselves all over the country. After looking at the house on Google Earth, I did a random search of the address and found that it is currently listed for sale. So, even the woman who bought the house from Grandma is moving on. The listing said that the house was built in 1928. Mom thinks that her parents bought it in the late 1930s, 38 or 39. They raised their two girls, saw them move to Illinois and Minnesota, had their empty nest years, entertained grandchildren, and lived together until grandpa died in 1983. Then grandma took care of her home until 1992 when she realized that she couldn’t do it by herself anymore. For more than 50 years that house saw a family, in a home, living their lives. It held so much life, and all that life came back to me yesterday. It’s sad to think of strangers living there now, but that’s life, too, isn’t it, thing’s change. Still, the influence of those places stays with us, and more so the people. They make us who we are. That little house will always be a part of me, and I will hold it dear.