My mom’s parents affectionately known as Gee (sounds like the clarified butter in every Paleo enthusiast’s pantry) and Granddaddy lived two blocks down the street from me growing up in a cottage on a corner that looked like it could have actually been Hansel and Gretel’s house. To this day, I’m not sure what the style of the house actually is. It was a two-story Arts and Crafts bungalow from the 1930s with a heavy emphasis on the crafts movement. The exterior was a mix of brick and timbers on plaster, a diamond pane windowed sunroom, a huge front porch with thick brick columns, and best of all a green tile roof. It was eclectic and charming to say the least.
There was a huge scraggly hedge that everyone except my grandmother hated, tall old Oak trees, a green double swing that was essentially like a standalone porch swing situated beneath the trees and hidden from view—a perfect place to hide from siblings and listen to Virgil, the black lab go in and out of his home engineered dog run that ran down the driveway into the garage and back into the yard. Then there were their cars. My grandfather who always advised us to drive sensible Hondas drove a gold, two-door Cadillac with fins out the back, hounds tooth clad seats, and at least two cases of bottled cokes in the trunk while my grandmother drove a white Oldsmobile that never, ever left its parking spot except to go to Seesel’s grocery store where the kids got free ladyfingers. If the big wooden door wasn’t already opened, you got to hang out with a goofy, green frog on the front stoop for a bit.
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Once inside, orange was the name of the furniture game. There was a rust velvet sofa with a wooden frame (allegedly recovered by my grandmother herself), a giant stone fireplace, a big Egyptian brass plate topped with silver men that I once presumed were acting out the Bangles hit “Walk Like an Egyptian). It’s actually something my grandfather brought back from the War—the Second World one that was simply referred to as the War in that house. There was a round card table with secret side compartments for dice and their black paneled cardholder. Underfoot, there were gigantic and thick pink and blue oriental rugs that were super scratchy to the touch.
In the den beyond, there was an orange-covered radiator that ran the length of one wall and held family photos, the remote control, and the TV Guide. Columbo, Murder She Wrote, 60 Minutes, and Perry Mason were always on the TV that came in it’s own wooden house. Next to that were the folding green TV trays.
Onto the dining room, there was another covered radiator (in a more elegant ivory color), a window treatment combo of velvet curtains and crinkly sheers. The dark wood dining table was always set with a see-through lace tablecloth and a big compote filled with glass grapes, which I may or may not have put them in my mouth a few times. There was also a sideboard topped with a full silver coffee and tea set and a big wooden credenza that was actually a two-ton record player with built-in speakers and storage for your records. If I recall, they had a lot of Cream, Jackson 5, and Louis Armstrong records. The breakfast room and kitchen, had green and black tile floors, the wildest, shiniest, 70s print floral wallpaper, a parakeet named Peabody, 40 years worth of commemorative Kentucky Derby glasses, every single kind of cocktail and wine glass you could ever need, my grandmother’s carton of Benson & Hedges, and a screen to hold over frying pans that hung on a hook beside the stove. The pantry was always stocked with my grandfather’s toolbox and an entire grocery store shipment of toilet paper and paper towels. There were also plenty of Grape Nuts, Cream of Wheat, iceberg lettuce, extra-long grain rice, red beans, Angel Food ice cream, and a giant Hershey bar (always in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer). Also on the refrigerator was a clipping of the latest Ziggy from the “Funnies” section of the newspaper.
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In the bathrooms, there were the familiar scents of Cherry Almond Jergens lotion, Ponds face cream, and Barbasol shaving cream. There was always a bar of Dial soap and a nailbrush in the little niche that held the soap. The guest room had the coolest thing of all—the Exercycle, a primitive, metal exercise bike. In the hall closet was another machine masterpiece, the Rexair Rainbow Model D vacuum cleaner. Also made of steel, it looked like a UFO, had to be filled with water in the bottom, and was like dragging a small tank around, but everyone was in awe of the Rexair. All the hoses and various parts were housed reverently in a light, blue pillow case when it was shuffled to the home of whoever was hosting the next family party.