to grandpa and grandma’s house we go

// a reflection on place //

i have walked through this drive way hundreds of times, usually with some kind of luggage: in elementary school it was the dalmatian suitcase, the one that matched my sisters’ and cousin’s. we opened them on christmas morning, in the living room with the big family picture, taken in 2001 when we celebrated grandpa and grandma’s 50th wedding anniversary. the front door is white, with a big glass piece in the middle where you can see the person on the other side walking through the halfway to answer the ringing doorbell. on the other side of the glass i am always warmly greeted by either a friendly face or a barking dog licking my ankles (or sometimes both).

i know the sound of the doorbell, i know the expectation of waiting for the cousins to walk through the same door so our summer pool party could officially begin, or christmas present opening, or dinner, or…the list could go on. every room in this house holds memories, even the hallways. i remember meeting my cousin’s girlfriend, now wife, melissa, sitting at the dining room table. i know where the extra chairs on in the garage that we pull out when we have all of us together, eating together, usually laughing at different points of the meal, each of us taking turns getting up to get more butter from the kitchen or more water to fill the glasses. there’s always coffee after dinner, decaf, of course. and we know that grandpa takes his black, because why would you dirty a perfectly good cup of coffee with something like half and half? it’s just not the way you drink it.

in the family room, we’ve watched football games and movies, world cup soccer games, and the nightly news. at the holidays, something will be playing in the background while we chat on the couch (and snack. so much snacking). i remember zachary playing on the carpet when we first met him. i remember dancing here with isaac, my mom leading us in one of her PE dance routines.

the guest room in my mind is always a mess. it is where three (and sometimes four) suitcases are squished to the side, with clothes messily spread across the room. here is where we would sneak away to watch the disney channel in the evening, or where i would yell at my sisters to be quiet because i wanted to sleep. we switch who gets the air mattress and who gets the bed, we fight over the sheets in the middle of the night, and we are asked by our caring and usually-cold grandmother if we need any more blankets for the night (which i always answer no, because my body runs ten degrees warmer than normal). the closet holds the pool towels that we use every summer, the games we would play at night like chinese checkers (my grandpa always wins), the shuffling machine for card games. i remember playing blocks with isaac in this hallway, the last time i saw him before he died.

i used to sneak into my grandparents’ bedroom to look at the wedding albums, to see my mom in her foofy gown and what she looked like at her brother and sister’s weddings. sometimes i would help grandma make the bed, or i’d sit at the edge of the bed enjoying their green colored bench that seemed fit for royalty to me. i’d think about how fun it would be to have a fireplace in my own bedroom. in the mornings i would sneak into my grandma’s bathroom as she is getting ready for church. i’d watch her put on makeup, while listening to the christian radio station. when i started wearing make up, i learned where her cold cream was, so i could take off my mascara before bed. the counter top usually has at least one jasmine vanilla bath and body works fragrance and the cabinet is stocked with hairspray.

how many hours have i spent in this pool? the pool that looks out onto the gorgeous view of orange county and the ocean, where we can point out disneyland and anaheim stadium, where the orange county fair grounds are and the john wayne airport, and on clear days, the channel islands. this is the pool i fell into with all my clothes on, walking along the slippery tile that divides the jacuzzi and pool, wanting to be as cool as my cousin aaron, and slipping and falling instead. grandpa used to bring out the big black bag of pool toys – the noodles and blow up intertubes. we would race each other for hours, the pavement outside the pool covered in water and i’m sure neighbors were tired of our squealing and laughing. this is the pool where we played “hide the rock”, taking the flat black stones from the potted trees and hiding them in corners of the pool. afterwards we would do somersaults and try to create our own synchronized swim routine. when we had the dogs around, they would bark incessantly. scott would take matters into his own hands and carry mac to the pool as a threat to shut up. sometimes we would pull tanya into the pool and she would swim around for only a short bit before she decided it was more fun to watch.

we know the avocado tree: we’ve climbed those branches and picked fruit. we’ve conquered the ants crawling along the bark and at times we’ve gotten stuck at the top (or maybe that’s just me). we’ve tasted the most delicious oranges from that hill, the ones we have for breakfast in the morning and snacks in the afternoon. i remember the barbeque chicken dinners after playing in the pool all afternoon, our eyes stained red from the chlorine. we would eat and eat and eat some more. grandma’s freezer is always stocked with ice cream for dessert (butter pecan, of course), and grandpa usually declines because he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. i always stare at his empty dessert plate in amazement.

this is the house.

this is the house i have grown up loving, finding it as a safe get-away, from spring vacation to summer vacation to christmas vacations to long weekend ron de vu’s. it’s the house where we hosted my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party and served shrimp cocktail and artichoke dip. this is where we took pictures before andrea’s wedding, rain lightly sprinkling outside. this is the house where we had sleep overs with the cousins, where i told grandpa about my new job, where we talked about nicaragua and american foreign policy. it’s the place where i find old pictures of my mom when she was young, of my grandparents when they were in their thirties, sitting out by the pool with their best friends (with most last names starting with a “v”, because we’re dutch).

i know it’s not the house’s physical nature that holds so much meaning for me, but rather the memories it holds, the people it has watched grow up, the welcome it has bestowed on each of us each time we pass through the front door.

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