Monday, October 17, 2011

This Used to Be My Playground--GBE2 #22 (Topic: Safe Haven)





There is a house in the middle of Albany, New York.

It is in one of the not-so-great neighborhoods.  The ghetto.  The 'hood.  Whatever you want to call it--the street looks like the very definition of a poor, urban neighborhood.

All the houses on the block look the same--just different color schemes.  They all have a stoop with roughly six or so steps, wrought iron railings and a matching awning overhead.  I would just about bet that I could go into any one of these homes and be able to find my way around to each room...each house being a cookie cutter copy of the next.

This house is shades of brown.  Beige vinyl siding with dark brown trim.  The awning is beige and dark brown stripes.  Double doors with huge full panes of thick glass lead to a small foyer where the mailboxes are and two more doors--both with huge panes of glass that are taller than I am--lead to the upstairs and downstairs apartments.

There is a postage stamp of a yard in the back that used to have grape vines until the neighbor accidentally chopped them all down--his purely innocent attempt at 'weeding'.  Tulips would be planted every year in precise patterns, only to have the squirrels dig them up and replant them.  It was a surprise every spring to see which colors were going to sprout in what parts of the yard.

My grandma bought this house right around the time that my biological mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  She wanted my father and I to always have a place to return to--no matter what life brought our way. 

Sometimes we lived there...often we didn't.  My father and my step (we don't used that word and it's only for clarification purposes) mom made their own way in the world and we lived in several different places over the years.

But grandma's house was my house and there was no place like home.

I spent my summers in that house.  I spent my holidays there as well. 

I lived there off and on when my parents didn't get along as well as they should.

My grandmother was my whole world.  As far as I'm concerned, she was my mother, father, and best friend all rolled up into one neat and tidy package.  When I was fourteen, I decided to move there permanently.  Nobody stopped me.

I had my first date on the stoop--splitting a pizza with my first boyfriend.

I had my first kiss on that stoop.

I kissed a few other boys there too.

I fought with my best friend.  Fought with a few boyfriends.  Tried to beat up my sister a few times too.

I discovered my grandma's body after she'd passed on.

I went to prom.  Graduated from high school. 

Inherited the house.  Had my first wedding reception there.

I moved away.  Then moved right back.  Then moved away again.

For a long time, this house was exactly what my grandmother set out for it to be.  It was always a place I could return to...no matter where life had taken me. 

It was home.  It was my home.

Sometimes, I drive through the old neighborhood.  It was bad when I lived there and it's only gotten worse.  I get nostalgic...this is where I lived...where most of my major life milestones occurred.  I wonder who lives there now and hope that the memories that they are making are happy ones.

I wouldn't want to live there now.  My current home isn't perfect, but there is way more grass and trees.  It's a much safer environment for my children than what I experienced.

But I realize that my love of my childhood home has nothing to do with the house, the windows, doors, and rooms.

It was my grandmother and the love that she brought into that house.  The love she gave me everyday.

And that....I can carry with me no matter where I live.

20 comments:

  1. I love, love this story. For me, too, a grandmother's love is just not comparable to anyone elses. My grandmother was a major and most precious part of my childhood. I spent my summers with her and most of that time was just her and me. Incredible and precious memories. Thanks for reminding me about my other safe haven from childhood.

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  2. @Jo: My grandmother was my world. I spent more time with her than anyone else. I wish that my own children could experience what I did. However, the only grandmother they have is my mom and she is just not 'that kind of grandma'. I'm glad that I could bring back some happy memories for you :)

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  3. I love this. I can feel all your emotions through your whole story. Fantastic!

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  4. I think my grandmother's home was my parents' safe haven for a long time. I know that during the two years my father was in the service, my mother and I returned there from time to time. Then when he was discharged, we returned there. That's where I first met my younger sister after she was born. But I was only 2 1/2, so I barely remember it. Most of my childhood memories are of my great-aunt, her sister's, house. Several weeks ago I wrote about my memories of her and her home. Yours is a lovely story.

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  5. Perfect song choice for the post.

    Joyce
    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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  6. This one brought tears--the sweet kind. Really wonderful post this week. ♥

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  7. You must have had a wonderful Grandmother. It was pure love in her heart to create a safe place for you. I'm sorry for your loss.

    This is a beautiful blog.

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  8. thank you for sharing your memories, so sweet.

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  9. @Angie: Thank you! It was pretty emotional for me to write.

    @Angelaparsonmyers: I will have to go check out your blog about your great-aunt :)

    @Joyce: That song has always reminded me of my grandma.

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  10. @Beth: Well...I figured after taking the last two weeks off, I ought to have come up with something worthwhile :-P I'm glad that you liked it and thank you so much for sharing it with your friends too.

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  11. @Darlene: My grandmother was really special to me. I really never had that closeness with my parents like I had with her. Unfortunately, she passed when I was sixteen...my then boyfriend and I came home from school to find her body on the couch. I really lost her way too soon.

    @Sylvia: Thank you for reading, I'm glad that you enjoyed it :)

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  12. I can't imagine how hard it would be to find your grandmother's body like that as a teenager. This was a heartwarming story- thank you for sharing..!

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  13. @GenkiOriana: It was pretty awful. I knew all day long that something was wrong and nobody would believe me. It was a very sad moment to have to say 'See??!! I told you so!!'

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  14. True heart is a safe haven. Great post Stephtee.

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  15. This post has me in tears. I can totally relate to it in many ways. I lived with my Grandmother for 3.5 years growing up, every summer we went to stay with her, and we finally moved back to live near her in high school. There is nothing I love more than being in her company. Thankfully she is still living--but I don't live close by her anymore--so we talk a couple times a week on the phone and visit a couple times a year.

    Her love is a complete safe haven for me. She is the one person I can be around and totally be myself (outside my husband and kids). There is nothing better than flying down to Florida for a visit and just staying with her the entire time--I don't have to go anywhere--just enjoy her company and I'm always completely refreshed.

    I can't wait to see her in November. She's coming up for Thanksgiving. She will be 90 in the beginning of November and I'm well aware how precious our time is together.

    Thanks for sharing this post. Cheers, Jenn.

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  16. Thank you for sharing this Beautiful story! It reminded me a bit of my mom. She had eight brothers and sisters and ended up being raised by her grandmother, who like you, was more like her Mom.

    What a blessing your grandma was to you! I miss my Grandma. I can still smell the wonderful smells that came from her kitchen. It was such a warm place for me in my childhood.

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  17. Your grandmother, what a wonderful thing to write about when answering the safe haven prompt.

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  18. I love you story! Amazing how a house can hold so much significance in our lives. Since I think you are absolutely great and love your writing, I have given you an award! Yes...another one, because you rock! Stop by and pick it up!

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com/2011/10/tell-me-all-about-yourself-award.html

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  19. @GenePoolDiva: It certainly is!

    @Jenn: It sounds like you and your grandmother are very lucky to have one another and you both are truly blessed. I hope that you have an wonderful visit when you see her :)

    @Beechlover: My grandma had amazing kitchen smells too! I learned how to recreate her famous pot roast but her homemade spaghetti sauce is only in my memories now :)

    @Langley: Thank you so much! When I saw the prompt, it was honestly the first thing to come to mind.

    @Kathy: I'm glad that you enjoyed it. And thank you so much for all the nice things you say! Oh, and thank you for the award and the thinking that I rock too! ;)

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  20. wow this made me cry; YOU SHOULD PUT THIS INTO A FORMAT FOR READING your words are so descriptive and you bring people (me) to maybe where they don't really want to go..but its ok..it just allows to surface..a dwindled heart. ((hugs)) M's song too, listening to this when reading your heart. My ex use to be my safe playground...until he decided to use me as a sacrifice! dang..sounds corny but life has a way of taking you on paths you NEVER thought you would journey

    umm..just read ..DUH my comments; hard cover; or speaking book maybe ((hugs))

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