All these weeks since she’s passed, her green-colored house runs through my mind. I walk over the brown plaid carpet and into the kitchen where the linoleum floor is a pattern that reminds me of small stones fitted together. On the lower shelf the copper thinking men bookends, goodies in the cabinet, the toaster and TV next to the breakfast table where grandpa sat watching the news and burning his toast.
I move into the past as I move into the future, never sure where one begins or ends. My grandmother dies while I am pregnant with my first child, her third great-grandchild. But she would not have known him had she lived; she no longer knew me. The last time I saw her she lay sleeping in her bed at the nursing home—Heritage Manor. Her body a shell of its former self and her hand clawed up like the tight fist of an infant. I pried it open and put my hand in hers—she held on. I sat there looking at her hand for a while. The knuckles like chicken bones, the two gold rings—one, her wedding band and the other a ring my grandfather had given her in recent years—slipped, threatening to slide right off had she not insisted on curling her fingers up in a fist.
Now this layer of the past begins to slip away, this generation, as in me a new one begins. I wonder if my child will know the walls and corners, the floor patterns and nooks of my parents’ house as I do my grandparents. We live fully in the rooms of our houses; our memories play like shadow puppetry against their walls. I watch the sunlight on a tiny plant in my kitchen and wonder why this is joyful to me—the bright green color, the life.
Asa, our friends’ son, sits on the floor painting. I give him the packing tape and he can’t get enough of it—he pulls and pulls and sticks his art to the radiator and the stove. Josh says he’s doing an installation. In him—a kindness and imagination—I imagine my own son. My longing to hold, to cuddle children overwhelms me—I am like an ancient auntie pinching cheeks.
The leaves are nearly gone from the tree in the backyard where Josh spent Sunday afternoon raking. The sky is a gray wash—November skies, a color in the paint chart I’ve examined all week, does not mollify my desire for darkness overcome. It is this first darkness I love, like the first blanket of night dreams, or the past walking in—so unexpected, the photo ID card of Hannah (my sister) from the London metro in 2000, she was 18 years old, surfacing in the move. Then I remember all over again her dearness to me and how I miss—
I can't stop walking through Grandma Honey's house. I smell the roast in the oven and the scalloped potatoes it took decades for me to enjoy. I feel the rug under my bare feet as I take the stairs, and at the turn of the staircase, a window—is this right—two or three more steps and I am on the second floor. There in the bathroom of peaches and pinks and cream colors, I look inside the mirror cabinet. I lift the lotion from the shelf and smell it. I touch each bottle of nail polish, all a shade of blush. I climb up onto the bathtub then onto the counter—if I reach up I can get ahold of the Styrofoam cup on top of the cabinet in which my grandfather keeps his lost teeth. I take it down, amazed at the size of the teeth. In my own home, the floors are bare wood, the walls need paint, there are chips and cracks and my husband won’t let me paint anything pink or peach or blush, though I’d adore an enormous pastel pink bathroom in honor of my Honey. I know I am like her in my desire to nest—she had seven children—in my desire for matching plush towels and soft sofa cushions, for comfort, and in my need to keep an orderly house; this I think is how she lives on in me.