Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Memories For Sale

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an obsession with seeing the inside of other people's houses. To be honest, it was the most exciting part of house hunting for me. And this doesn't apply to the houses of people I know, just to the houses of complete strangers. There was an episode of the show "Dead Like Me" where George, the main character, talked about how she always loved Halloween because it meant seeing inside the houses of strange people and I practically jumped off the couch and shouted "THAT'S SO ME!" And, while I know it's a weird thing to enjoy, I just can't help it.

Now that our house hunt is over, I sometimes wander over to real estate websites and go through houses with photo galleries for their listings so that I can enjoy peeking inside of people's houses without feeling like a total creeper. Tonight, as I was sitting in my hotel in the middle of nowhere Ohio feeling a bit bored and lonely as the rain hammered the window of my hotel room and missing home, I decided to go clicking around to see what some other people called home. I was struck when my website search pulled up an address I recognized all too well. It was the second address I could recite from memory at three years old, the first being my own home address. My grandma's house was being sold. This isn't the first time her house has been sold, since she sold it herself years ago when she moved in with my family, but as far as I'm aware this is the first time it's been on the market since she sold it herself. Over the years, I hadn't thought too much about the place. Right after Grandma passed away I was feeling nostalgic and drove past it a few times, but the outside didn't look anything like I remembered and what I saw didn't have any of my grandma in it. The buyers had remodeled it and added on, so the outside looked completely different.

Tonight as I clicked on the photo gallery photos of the inside of the house, I was a little shaken. Where the outside didn't look anything like my childhood memories, aside from the large pine tree they left in the front yard, the inside is more like my memories than I ever expected. Despite the remodel, they kept a lot of the inside the same. They kept the vintage door casings, and the front door into the mud room is original to the house. The kitchen has new cabinets and countertops, but the layout is the same and I could see myself standing next to my grandma at the stove waiting to take pretzels out of the oven early in the morning when I was about 9 years old. I think they turned grandma's bedroom into the family room, and I found myself wondering if they left the wall and doorways between the kitchen and the now dining room where my cousins and siblings and I spent hours running in circles between the rooms chasing each other.

Suddenly, as I was looking at the photos, I felt like I just didn't want anyone living in that house where I had so many memories. I found myself wondering if the laundry chute was still there, and if it still went to the strange cage-like contraption in the basement. I wondered if any other children had locked a sibling in that cage and thrown things down the chute at them like we used to do to my brother. I looked at the back porch, which had been turned into a sun room and remembered how grandma used to hang wind chimes out there. I wondered if the basement was still damp and a little creepy. I wondered if they were as perplexed as everyone else was when it came to figuring out what to do with the nook in the dining room that used to hold the organ that my grandmother owned but didn't really know how to play. I wondered what they had done to the upstairs, which there were not photos of, where my mom used to sleep when she was growing up. I wondered if they kept the built in dressers that used to fascinate me when I was little. And, among all of this wondering, I found it sad that someone else would live there. Someone who was not related to me, who could not look through the pictures and share any memories with me. I never thought about this when grandma sold the place originally, because she was still around and my memories were not tied to her home. Now that she's gone, I am sad. I hope a new family is able to make their own memories there, and that they can look back at their time there and laugh like I do, or share stories with each other like my cousins and sisters and I have done over and over again. I also found myself sort of wanting to call the agent and schedule a viewing, just so I could walk through it one last time.

So with that, and my nostalgia fresh in my mind, I leave you with some photos of my grandma's house as it is now. Not as I remember it, but hopefully as someone else is remembering it, and hopefully their memories are as fond as mine.