There are certain associations locked into different times of our life, like the way I always remember springtime on the hill behind Anderson when I think of college or, in high school, driving to Eon's for teen night in my friend Brett's car (Bernadette, RIP). Many of my early, pre-middle school memories are of my grandparents' house. This weekend I was back in Pennsylvania for a visit and probably my last trip to that house.
I realized that, unconsciously, I've always set my mom's childhood here - the photo of her at four in a wool coat sledding in this yard or with a baby doll in these bedrooms - even though she was in high school when she and her seven sibs moved here. I guess since I never saw the other houses, this is what I think of as her home. And, to some degree, mine.
We did live here for a little, but even before and after, there were tons of memories: awesome sledding down the steep-steep front hill after a huge snowstorm or, with less snow, the tamer hill out back. There were side-yard barbeques with the whole family, holiday dinners with a main table and kids' tables (no punishment since whichever of the 23 cousins were there would be good company), Christmas - a fresh tree with big old-fashioned colored lights - and later, after my grandfather had set up his reel-to-reel projector, everyone on the living room rug watching home movies way before videocameras were standard equipment.
There was cool stuff in the house, too, maybe part of why I love old houses today. Closets with little nooks or stairs, incinerator chutes that funneled trash right to the basement, back stairs hidden behind a door in the kitchen, a cable car - like a little train - that pulled my cousins and I slowly up the hill...what kid wouldn't love all that?
It was definitely bittersweet taking my last tour of a place that holds so many memories. The house is for sale now (could be awesome with some work, if you're in the market!)
Of course the best part of any memory isn't the place, but the people who were there. The family who were part of every sledding, water balloon, gaming, bbq, holiday, movie-watching event.
So the house that hosted all that fun stuff won't be ours anymore, but the party just moves to a new location and adds a new group of kids - mine and my cousins'. Total deja vu watching them this weekend - in the baby pool or with bean bags and hula hoops and bubbles - doing the kind of things we all used to do at Grammy & Grampy's house.