Sunday, July 15, 2007

To Grandmother's house we go

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I don't write regularly. I'm too busy posting in more social environments for the most part. But here is something I can post that is mine for the posting. I had my own little "This American Life" episode this summer. My wife's uncle took us out to grandma's old house, the house where he, and my mother-in-law, and ten other siblings grew up. My wife's grandma lived there until she died in the 1990s; Uncle Herb lived there until 2005. There are lots of things that make this particular house interesting, but for now let's just look at the house itself.

Here are a few pics of the house from the outside:

Oh, and the "necessary room" in its own little house around the back:

The outhouse was used regularly until Grandma visited her daughter in Arizona in the 1970s and Uncle Herb installed indoor plumbing while she was away.

Speaking of the back, here is a view looking at the back of the house. There used to be a porch of sorts called a "summer kitchen" that was accessible through the door that's now boarded up.

Without further ado, our tourguide, Uncle Herb:

Entering the door at Uncle Herb's right hand, you go into the kitchen. Here's a view inside looking back toward that door (that is my son in the picture, with my wife off to the side). There is a doorway that leads to Grandma's bedroom; more on that later.

Turning around to look at the rest of the kitchen:

Oh, just a little aside: The place looks kind of messy. You might think this is because no one is living in the house. That isn't quite true though. When I visited the house before my wife's grandma died, it was in many respects worse. Grandma was a packrat and had stacks of boxes and piles of stuff stacked in most of the rooms. It was cleaner then, but far, far more cluttered.

If you go into the next part of the kitchen, you can see Uncle Herb has already taken the kitchen cabinets out, although the lines of where they used to be are still visible:

This was the part of the house that was lived in, but if you go through the yellow door, there was a part that wasn't used much in later years, other than for storage. This looks more old-fashioned. In the foreground is a stove that was used both for cooking and heating (the house never had a furnace, just two or three wood and kerosene stoves). In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time in that room; it had a lot of neat stuff to explore. The summer kitchen was just off of this room.

There was a bathroom with a laundry on the first floor. It was, as I said, put in in the 1970s. It's kind of taken apart right now:

Since Grandma had a tough time getting up and down stairs, her bedroom was a small room on the first floor. Like many rooms in the house, it was a "pass-through" room. The house had few hallways. The rooms just opened onto each other in a big chain. Here is Grandma's room (little more than a closet in a modern home):

It was hard to even take a picture of that room since it was so cramped. Things get interesting again when you go upstairs. Here is the stairway. Again, the cramped quarters made it hard to get a good picture:

The best way to describe the upstairs layout is to picture two rows of rooms running from the front to the back of the house. Four rooms opened onto the landing at the top of the stairs; the front two were dead ends, but the next two ran into other rooms toward the back of the house.

So if you looked at the house from the front, this room would be on the lefthand side:

Here's the room behind it and the rooms that led off of that one:

From what Uncle Herb said, this side of the upstairs was not normally used; it was more of an attic where stuff was stored. You can see some old furniture, and there are also other signs of a growing family. The "BASCO Skating Outfit" caught my fancy. I wonder which of my wife's aunts got that, perhaps as a Christmas gift?

The other side of the upstairs was lived in. The first room was where my mother-in-law and one of her sisters slept:

The next room, though, was my favorite. Two or three more sisters slept here.

It had pictures cut out of the Sunday paper and pinned to the wall. They were mostly of stars of the day, but there were also some political pics.

With the pinups and this record player, it's easy to picture my wife's aunts as teenagers not unlike today's.

As on the other side of the house, the rooms led to each other until you got to the back of the house.

Finally, it was time to leave the wasp-infested upstairs and climb down the narrow stairway.

The house must have been something in its day.