When I was a littl’ girl in elementary school, which went to 6th grade,I couldn’t wait for school to be out every day. As a seven-year-old, the most fun thing for me to do after walking home from school then getting my homework done was to walk over to Grandma’s house. Only a stone’s throw from our house, I felt really grown-up and big walking about two blocks and knowing that I didn’t have to hold anyone’s hand. Of course, there weren’t many, if any, cars that traveled the street, so I’d usually walk smack dab in the middle of the road.
In between my twirling, skipping and ballerina poses, no there weren’t any dance lessons in my life, but I could pretend, I’d even meander into other neighbors’ back yards. I might run through the sweet-smelling clothes hanging on clothes lines. Grab a crab apple that had fallen from a tree. Or just crunch the new fallen crinkle leaves of the big trees. This was my ritual several days a week during the school year from about 2nd grade until I was in junior high.
Walking up the narrow cinder block steps to grandma’s house, I’d hear the creak of the back screen door as I pulled it open, hoping not to fall off the steps. Yes, that creak was like a doorbell. Grandma knew I was there…not quite in the kitchen, the door opened into a small vestibule leading into the tiny ‘foyer room’ where the old refrigerator welcomed me. To the left was a doorway. There were steep rickety wooden steps leading down to the stone-walled basement.
Dark, dank and chilly, I’d sit on the wooden steps watching Grandma do the day’s wash. Wringing out the wet clothes through the ringer. She had a distinct technique. Hand wringing first, then threading everything from panties to sheets through the tight spinning drums. She’d laugh, look up at me peering through her spectacles that were perched in the middle of her big nose and tell me she didn’t want to ‘get her titty caught in the ringer! It always made me laugh. Across from this cellar door was the opening to the big kitchen.
There were always big pots and cast iron skillets of simmering foods on the vintage Universal stove. Raising 11 kids and still having several living with her with their families, she was always in the kitchen, cooking! I can’t ever remember seeing those stove blazes empty. I’d listen to Grandma chatter about gossip around the neighborhood as she’d sit and peel potatoes, string beans, or knead bread dough. Not five feet tall, her blue tinted short hair was colored once weekly at the beauty parlor. Always there’d be a handkerchief tucked in the sleeve of her sweater or blouse. After Grandma had finished in the kitchen, I knew exactly was coming.
It was the porch! Yes, the big wrap around porch where there were enough seats, big comfy chairs and rockers, for five or six people. There was a glider and a swing. A few tables with ashtrays, yes, a lot of smoking back in the 1950s and early 1960s, and beautiful green potted plants in the Spring, Summer and Fall.
This space, which seemed massive to me, had a wooden floor. Probably painted yearly with the traditional grey paint, it was shiny, clean and perfect. Well, perfect in a well-worn sense. Every few days Grandma got the long hose out and would spray down the porch and furniture. I’d love being there in the afternoons when she did that. She’d become a regular machine holding that nozzle, put it on the strongest spray, clean the porch and ambush any kid riding their bikes by or walking on the sidewalk! Again, we’d chuckle and laugh knowing it was just all in good spirit and play. Kids would love it, too, turning around riding or walking past Grandma again. Just to get the attack of the ‘blaster’ hose.
What I loved most about my time on Grandma’s porch, just the two of us, was getting to know her. Really getting to know her. She always told me stories of growing up in Virginia when she was a girl. How she faked going to church one Sunday by climbing a tree, finding a bird’s nest with eggs and smashing them on her white frock to show that she had vomited. Oh, there were many more imaginative stories that kept me hanging on to her every word~what a storyteller she was.
Hooked on ‘General Hospital’. Grandma chattered away about the people and all their escapades, Dr. Steve Hardy, Audrey, Angie, and more. It was like she really knew them. Honestly, I thought she did for a while! Then our porch visits wouldn’t have been complete with Grandma showing me the latest gossip from Hollywood. Oh, she loved the tabloids and, again, it was as if she knew these people, like Liz Taylor and all her marriages. ‘Can you believe what Eddie did to Debbie…he dumped her for Liz!’ I’d sit there wide-eyed as she mumbled on imagining ‘Hollywood’ as a fairyland of excitement.
Grandma, full of piss n’ vinegar, had no idea how she was shaping and influencing me. On the other hand, maybe she did~it was her divine plan! Her porch was a place of magic. I was encapsulated in a world that sparked my imagination and helped fodder my love of adventure. Grandma’s porch and Grandma, Alice Emma, yes, I was named after her, etched memories and traits in my personality that I see in myself today. Just don’t walk by my porch when I’m hosing it down, lest you’re ready to be blasted by my super dooper powerful hose and nozzle! And, yes, I’ll be laughing my bahottie off!