The one geographical constant during my entire life, is my grandpa’s house in San Diego. Though I sadly haven’t visited there in the past 5 years, I still have many precious memories of every room in his house. When I do go back, I feel like it’s the one safe place in the world. My refuge. My place of identity. My place where I belong, even just as a grand-daughter.
In the front yard, my memories involve plants. Under the living room window were some strawberry plants which provided yummy fruit for little fingers. And along the driveway were sweet pea plants, fragrant and beautiful, as well as an “Elizabeth rose,” which I liked because it matched my name. A large tree on the street sometimes dropped seed pods that I remember coloring in an effort to create pretend food for our childhood make-believe games.
The living room is one of the most precious places. A large wardrobe stood in the corner, the bottom drawer of which held games and children’s books for us to enjoy whenever we visited. It also had a full-length mirror which was fun to dance in front of. When I was little, the living room couches were ones that rocked. We spent many hours cuddling with Grandma, Grandpa, aunts and uncles, on those couches, reading books, singing Christmas carols, playing “Dictionary.” My grandparents used to have a black cat, who would also join us in the living room. For my first 9 years, it was the only “pet” in my life.
Another prize of the living room was a player piano. We would choose a song scroll, load it on the gears above the keyboard, and then pump the foot pedals to make the piano “play” the music. I remember watching in fascination as the piano keys magically moved up and down, producing beautiful music. It was so fun!
The piano was also my first place to test out some piano playing of my own. I’d fallen in love with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (movement 1) and when my uncle David heard me trying to copy it on the piano, he offered to get me the sheet music for it. For years, it was the only music I owned, and I quickly memorized the first two movements.
My mom, my aunt Marybeth, and my Grandma all played piano, and Marybeth and Dad also played guitar, so we spent many hours enjoying music in the living room. I have a cousin Marcy who’s 2 years younger than me, and since I didn’t have a sister until I was 5 ½, we liked pretending we were twin sisters. One year at Christmas time, we planned a “ball” and dressed up and danced as the adults patiently and kindly played Christmas carols for us. Those were some of the happiest moments of my life.
Other precious moments were sitting in Grandpa’s lap, enthralled while hearing him read the “Bear story;” lying in my sleeping bag on the floor as Grandma stroked my hair – she was the only one I remember doing that; and then more than a decade later, Grandpa comforting me (the big college student) as I writhed in pain on the living room floor because of a terrible boil in my ear. “If these old walls could speak, they would have a tale to tell…”