The first house that I remember from my childhood is the one where my grandparents lived. The front living room where the Christmas tree was proudly displayed. The huckleberry bushes in the backyard where we chased one another in circles until we were dizzy, and picked berries for muffins. The swing set where I would swing and sing to my Pillsbury Dough Boy doll. The little green bowls from which Granny would serve us ice cream that she had mashed up to make it easier to eat. Watching Gramps make Coke floats by scooping up the ice cream and then hitting the handle to make the ice cream pop in the air and land in the blender.
Squealing with glee when Gramps would trap us in his legs and tickle us. Laying on their bed and staring at the picture of Granny on the wall, dreaming of being that beautiful. The smell of Gramps' van with it's mixture of paint and turpentine, and the splatters of paint on his clothes. Sweeping the front porch with Granny. The Christmas I got my Curious George stuffed animal. Falling asleep on the couch listening to the gospel quartet practice. Being more than slightly afraid of Uncle Chuck when he threatened to skin me alive, because he was in college and I never knew if he was serious or not.
Hundreds of memories fill my mind when I think of that old house. Then they moved when I was about 6, and I made more memories. Courtney and I pulling up the grass by the new house thinking we were helping, when in fact it was grass Gramps had planted to sod the area. Playing with Granny's old hats in the back bedroom with my cousins, and sleeping under the old, heavy quilts in the winter. Playing hide and seek outside in the dark. Running through the rows and rows of corn stalks in the garden, then hiding from Gramps because we were afraid to admit we had fallen on some of them. Picking buckets and buckets of blackberries for cobbler.
Riding Gramps' lawn mower with the deck pulled up and then running it into a tree. Playing in Gramps' wood shop for hours and the smell of fresh cut lumber. The sound of the men watching football in the living room, their voices loud and masculine as they rose and fell along with the game. The smell of good cooking coming from the kitchen, the feminine voices trading secrets and enjoying time together. The feel of Granny's cool hand on my forehead when I had a fever.
So many memories made there, but the one that brought me to my knees when I was home this last time was so simple. For as long as I can remember, I've been saying goodbye to Granny and Gramps. We would drive over from Texas for a visit, but eventually it had to end and we had to leave. Granny and Gramps would stand at the end of the sidewalk (at the first house) or driveway (at the second) as we left. I can see them in my mind's eye even now...Gramps' arm around Granny, and both of them waving us off. I remember crying as little girl when we had to leave, and kneeling in the back seat so that I could keep them in my line of sight as long as possible. They never went inside before I lost sight of them.
As I got older, it became a bit of a joke and we would wave to them like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, holding one arm up with the other as we waved goodbye. But they still waved us on until we were gone. All through my childhood, teenage years and young adulthood, Granny and Gramps always waved me home when our visit came to an end. It was so much a part of the trip home, that I never really though much about it and how much it meant to me.
I stopped at Granny and Gramps' house (I can't stop calling it that, even though Gramps has been gone for 2 and half years) to see Granny as we left town to drive back to Texas. She had started a fern from a cutting taken from a plant that belonged to her mother, and it was big enough for me to take it. The kids and I said our goodbyes and began to buckle up. Without even looking up I said, "Wave goodbye to Granny" and put the Tahoe in reverse. I looked up and saw that there was no one there. Granny had gone inside without waving us down the driveway.
Now I don't mean that as a complaint against Granny. She is 81 years old and she doesn't have any business standing out in the driveway, waving her arthritic shoulder out of place just to satisfy an old memory of mine. But as the tears pricked hotly behind my eyes, I couldn't help but feel as though a chapter of my childhood was finally coming to a close. My heart was heavy with a sense of loss that was almost tangible because I would never see my grandparents standing shoulder to shoulder again, smiling at me as I drove away.
But as I mulled over my feelings from that morning, I was comforted by one thought. One day, Granny and Gramps will be among the many people that I hold dear who will be waving me on to the throne room in heaven. They will be looking at me with love shining in their eyes, standing shoulder to shoulder and welcoming me to a home that will be eternal, where there will be no more tears and no more sorrow. Just an eternity of glorifying God and praising Him alongside all the ones who have gone before me, and I can't wait.