In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon. – Goodnight Moon
It’s just a house, right?
My grandparents moved into the Birch Street house in 1958, when my dad was four years old, and three years before his little sister was born. There’s not one nook or cranny of the yellow house that doesn’t hold a memory for me. My grandparents lived there for 53 years – I’ve felt at home there for the past twenty-six. It’s so strange to go over there for reasons other than saying hi, for my grandparents are no longer there.
Even my three-year-old niece and my four-year-old nephew recognize that the yellow house is now missing its beloved owners. “Where’s Grandma and Granddad?” the little ones have asked a few times in the past year. Even though they’ve been told their great-grandparents are now in heaven with Jesus, it’s a hard concept for little kiddos to understand. Titus just smiles and makes up a story about how Grandma now lives in the house in the painting on the wall.
That painting, by the way, is an integral part of the house. Though I don’t actually know, I assume it’s been there as long as my grandparents were. It’s in the basement, in the big room with the biggest television I’d ever seen when I was little. My family didn’t own a TV when I was growing up, so watching their TV was always a favorite activity. In highschool, on the coldest winter days, I’d drive over to the yellow house and lock myself in the basement and run on the treadmill or use the exercise bike with the television volume turned up way too loud. To get my attention Granddad would have to bang on the wall because I couldn’t hear him yell down the stairs over the sound of the TV.
The closets of the yellow house are bursting with Granddad’s old suits and ties, and Grandma’s old dresses. All of which were obviously intended to be tried on by most all of the fourteen grandchildren. We could become a doctor or lawyer or fine lady ready for tea or anything we wanted.
The house itself is yellow on top with odd, ridged siding and the bottom half is brick. Our favorite game growing up was to climb up onto the brick, and use the siding to hold on, and we’d make our way around the entire house that way; over and over and over.
Granddad’s love of gardening created the magical backyard that was home to hours of playing in a fantasy world; reliving stories like “A Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden” amidst the trees and shrubbery. Out in the backyard I became lost in many a wondrous story created in my imagination.
The house would come alive with excitement at holidays. Back before everybody grew up and got married or moved too far away, all the aunts and uncles and cousins would get together for either Thanksgiving or Christmas most years. We’d set up so many card tables there’d be nowhere to walk, and there would be enough food to feed a small army. We ate it all, too. We’re good eaters. Comes with being a Hiebsch.
For my whole life the house has been there.
The huge garage full of tools, workbenches, and Granddad’s prized cars.
The kitchen with the low shelves stocked with cookies and crackers, and the fridge full of yummy things to drink.
The living room overflowing with pictures of family, because that’s what really mattered to my grandparents.
And, of course, it goes without saying, my grandparents were there. Always. If ever I was staying home while my family was gone, I knew my grandparents would call me up to grab a bite to eat, or they’d stop by to check on me, or invite me to come stay with them in case I was lonely. They sent me a birthday card when I lived in Peru. They didn’t always understand why I would travel all over the world on missions trips, but they always supported me. I loved the random times when they’d call just to say hi, then hang up quickly because they didn’t want to take too much of my time.
It’s so different now. I’ve been spending a lot of time over at the yellow house; going through the boxes full of hundreds of letters and pictures ranging from the 1920s to last year; moving furniture around, helping with the estate sale. Of course I have to stop every few minutes to look at something, or relive a memory.
It’s good, but hard. My grandparents were a central part of my siblings and I’s lives. Now, cleaning out the house is like closing that chapter. As long as it’s still sitting there, a piece of them remains here in Wichita. Things are already changing. Well, really, things have already changed. The multiple yearly visits by extended family will slow down or completely cease because no one will come to visit the grandparents. Family reunions will no longer be centered here, because my grandparents aren’t here. Even with my family here, the future looks a little lonely. Life without the grandparents, when that’s all you’ve ever known, is strange and different, and somewhat empty.
I’m treasuring these moments.
Ella traipsing into the room carrying a basket and wearing a hat that Aunt Marcia wore as a flower girl around 45 years ago. Reading love letters from my grandparents to each other, during World War II. Finding a check for $.32 for a pair of overalls. Cleaning out closets and desks and drawers and cabinets. Finding my granddad’s dog tags, and my grandma’s war rations and yearbooks. These are moments I wish I could freeze into my brain. And sometimes, when looking through old photo albums, I wish I could jump inside and go back to those happy days of playing in the backyard gardens.
I love this house.
It’s just a house, sure. But it’s a house full of memories.
I started this blog last summer, soon after Grandma passed away. Since then we’ve put the house on the market, and just a few weeks ago it sold. Closing is this Friday, so I have already said my goodbyes to the house.
Good night stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.
[the yellow house]
[the fantastic backyard]
[my granddad and i]
[croquet is the way to go~ with chase, hunter, and blaire]
[making my way around the outside of the house]
[cousins. same haircut, same sweats. that’s how we like it~ with blaire and hunter]
[love the old white furniture. but really love the shag green carpet]
[really, the world needs two supermen! cal & chase!]
[mom with cal in the old yellow chair in the basement]
[reading with hunter]
[i love you, grandma!]