It wasn’t until Mom brought over a heart shaped urn filled with Aunt Doloris that it hit me. Aunt Doloris and my Grandmother were going to be buried in the backyard of the place I call home. I felt so fortunate. I hugged the urn and had a good cry, allowing myself for the first time in quite awhile to really reflect on the love I felt for my Grandmother’s twin sister -a woman who was like a second mother to my own mom, and a second Grandmother to me.
Last Saturday the family arrived car full by car full. Aunts, uncles, great-aunts, cousins, second-cousins. We totaled nearly 40 in all. We gathered to honor the life of my grandmother, her twin sister, and their brother Jack, all who would be laid to rest beneath a bench where they buried the ashes of their own parents many years ago. Some of the family I had never met, most of them I hadn’t seen in 5-10 years. But it was remarkable just how similar we were. Gathered around that bench we shared a special bond, and it was blood.
My Great-Aunt Mary told me stories about my Great-Grandfather. My only memory of Mary was when she and Jack took me out to lunch when I was three years old. They seemed so interested in me as a human being. They asked me questions about myself when I didn’t realize I could have so many answers. I ate tater-tots for the first time. Now here we were thirty years later and she was telling me stories about her father-in-law. A man we lovingly called Grandpa Dee. She told me about the times when Grandpa Dee used to squat on trains, and the time he threw his pistol off the train because the car was filled with suspicious hobos. How he knew exactly where he’d thrown the pistol and went to collect it the next time he rode through.
I took my cousins on a tour of the house that we had grown up visiting our Grandparents in. It’s been eight years now that Eric and I have called this place home and sometimes it doesn’t feel like the same house. Having my cousins here jarred loose our collective memories. They remembered where pieces of furniture used to be. They remembered how the toilet water was always blue. They remembered the brand of ice cream Grandma always kept in the freezer. They remember that Grandma and Grandpa used to keep after-dinner mints in a particular bowl.
But most importantly they reminded me of the treasure trove of history that we sit upon here. And how, for nearly as long as we’ve lived here, I’ve been planning and creating a project I’ve been calling “A Portable House” so I can share this history with these cousins, aunts, and uncles. Their presence shook something loose here in this house and shook something loose in me. I started sorting through photographs, letters, and documents once again. More clearly than ever I can see the Portable House project and its completion drawing near.
Doors are opening on their own again at night. The ghosts are active, and yet, have never felt more at peace.
October 6th, 2014 Post Script.
After digging through some old family records this weekend I discovered that Grandma Dee’s birthday was on September 27th…the very same day (unbeknownst to any of us) that we returned all of her children to rest in peace with her and her husband for all of eternity. Chills.