Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Place of 40 Christmases

If a heart can have a place, my Grandmama's house is mine.

It is the place my Granddaddy was born in 1923. And although it is not where my Mom grew up, it is the only home I have ever known Grandmama to live.

There was a period in the mid 1970s where my parents & I lived there as our home construction was completed. For much of my early childhood, I spent every weekday there while my parents worked. Because it was next door to my own home, I spent parts of many weekend days there as well.  Perhaps most significantly, I have spent every Sunday evening before Christmas of my entire life celebrating with our very large extended family--that's 40 Christmases.

By virtue of births, death, moves, marriage, and even divorce the faces present seem to change slightly each year. And while so much has shifted in the world and in the lives of our family, within those walls time stands still. For better or for worse, the carpet, the wallpaper, even the furniture has remained as a testament to the continuity of family.

I have written about Grandmama's house before and even specifically about celebrating Christmas there, but several weeks ago I received the news I knew was coming. She is moving and the house in all likelihood will be razed. In her late 80s, living independently in such a large, aged home with many maintenance needs is no longer feasible. Grandmama has left the home in order to move in with my aunt.

I had a deep sense back in December that it was our last Christmas there. I tried to actively soak it in.
Yet, knowing something is inevitable doesn't make it sting any less.

It is just a house, but it is a place that holds my history. The phrase "if these walls could speak" was no doubt first uttered over a place like this.

So today my clan of five journeyed South to Alabama for a walk thru of the old place--to gather some things Grandmama wanted us to have as she downsizes.

As I took a walk down memory lane, my children ran through her front yard, which was once my domain and climbed in the old magnolias that also held a younger me. It was a striking portrait of generational shift, changing times--and yet the precious beauty of shared stories and places.

The children were game to look at old pictures and hear a few stories about their heritage. (Those are baby portraits of my mom and her five siblings.)

Then we took a few updated front porch pictures.

Finally we journeyed about 40 minutes to visit Grandmama in her new surroundings. Just an hour after lamenting the old space, we were able to celebrate the new--even sitting on the porch there.

And in the sunshine, surrounded by family I was reminded that places are important to our story--but people can't be defined by that alone.  While change can be emotionally wrenching, sometimes it truly is for the best.
Grandmama is healthy, happy and appears to be enjoying her new adventure--and it is well with this granddaughter's soul.


Chantel Rylands said...

I found your blog not to long ago as I was searching my family history on the web. I have no idea how it lead me to your blog, but I'm glad it did. It's a breath of fresh air in this scary world.

I can relate to this post so much. The house my grandfather built was sold and demolished to build a new house. It was heart wrenching to watch, since it was next door to me. You're blessed that you have time to make many new memories with your Grandma.

God bless and take care. :)

Mary Lou said...

What a beautiful post. You have a very wise grandmother who moved without having to be made to move. What a gift of love she gave your parents.

Jennifer said...

So sweet and timely. I am going to help my mom clean out my grandmother's house this weekend. She passed away in October. You look radiant and are photogenic.

dee said...

I just LOVE this!

Denise Ross said...

This is such a beautiful post, Jen. For new seasons to begin, old ones must close theirs door, sad but exciting too. Love the photos, memory keepsakes and so lovely that your children have your grandmother still here too.