This is my 800th post on the blog today and I thought I would write about something significant from my childhood.
When I was a little girl, somewhere around 7 or 8 years old, my grandparents built a house up in the midst of 32 acres of woods about an hour or so away from our house. To get there, I always remembered that the last bit of road came down a hill, there was a huge and beautiful tree on the left and when you passed it, the hill went steeper down so that you could see a bridge, a steep incline the bridge went over, a river at the bottom of the incline, and the corner of their house peeking through the trees on the other side.
They had a long and twisting driveway so even as you turned in, you couldn’t see the house until after at least two turns, and then it crested as a whole. The house was beautiful. It was two story’s and my grandmother had made an amazing garden to the left of the front door, complete with a little pond and a small statue of a boy peeing into it. We walked inside to a big foyer, dropped our bags and went off to our collective favourite places.
Downstairs there were two bedrooms and a bathroom. One bedroom had the twin beds (which my sisters almost always got) and two long closets along the wall. Behind it was the furnace room and the heater room. On the other side of the downstairs was the bedroom with the double bed that my parents usually slept in. I remember it having a large, wall sized tapestry that I think someone told me my Aunt made. Behind this room was my grandpa’s work room.
Upstairs was a huge open floor plan consisting of one living area with the wall of stone that made up the fireplace and the old record player where we listened to Bill Cosby comedy records until we screamed with laughter. Another living area facing wall-length windows; ideal for bird watching, gazing into the edge of the woods, seeing my grandmother’s rose garden and just being calm and quiet. At the right end of the house was a playroom of sorts. There was a pool table and a couple more couches, a bunch of toys and lots of space to get rowdy in.
If you went up the stairs to the left instead of the right, you’d be first in the dining area, then the kitchen. Next was my grandmothers sewing room (which I LOVED because she had an actual dress form in there and I thought it was so cool) and a back door from that room took you into the greenhouse, which always smelled amazing and usually had fresh tomatoes or something else growing in it. Then at the far left end of the house was their bedroom, another bathroom and the pool room.
They had an indoor pool.
A lot of the years we visited, we did so with our cousins. My grandparents, my parents, my aunt and uncle and ten grandkids all roaming around together. Well, there weren’t ten of us right away, the last three weren’t born until we had already been going for some time. But you get the idea. We all learned to swim at their house. We all thought it was hilarious when we “accidentally” fell in the pool from just walking alongside it.
Since they had built the house, there was an old trailer on the grounds with a log outhouse beside it. It’s where they had lived while they were building but my grandpa converted it into a sugar shack and every spring they made their own maple syrup. To this day, no syrup has ever tasted better to me than theirs and I still long for it. There were mounds of trails to explore through the woods. A gravel pit where my brother, my cousins Jude and Dawn and I would climb up, stand on a ledge we had kicked into it and perform as if we were the Beatles.
Grandpa often had boy scouts up to use his woods for their training and such so there were always fascinating tee-pee’s and forts built out of and into the trees. By ten, we were allowed to take his hatched and twine and make out own.
The only drawback to Grandma and Grandpa’s amazing home were the snakes. There were loads of them. I remember Dawn and I turning cartwheels down the hill once only to almost put our hands on one. The boys threw one at me once and it hit me in the face. I’ve been scared of them my whole life.
When we were young, once a year this side (my mum’s) of the family would have a reunion. They still do, but when we were little, the reunions rotated as to who would host and every four years or so, it was my Grandparent’s turn. I loved those years. All the cousins and second cousins running all over the place. Getting up giant games of volleyball in the clearing, massive swim parties, huge trek’s through the trails. The sheer amounts of food and goodies set up along the wall in Grandpa’s work room. It was bliss.
They sold their house a few years ago. Too far away from doctors as they got older, too far away from a major town and their three daughters. They sold it and they moved down to Guelph. Half an hour from my mom, half an hour from my Aunt Bev in the other direction. I think a tiny part of all the cousins died a little the day they did. Not that any of us didn’t get it, we did. I just think we didn’t want to think of them being too old to live there, and for the magic of all those summers to be so permanently behind us.
I think their house is where I fell in love with walking in the woods. I always felt safe there. I always felt happy there.
My grandparents are still in their home in Guelph, although now it’s an even smaller one in assisted living. Grandpa is over 90. Grandma is getting close. But longevity runs in that side of the family. My adorable Great Uncle Eldon whom I love (Grandpa’s brother) is 102. I miss them a lot, especially now that I live so far away from them. But that’s the greatest thing about memories, isn’t it? I can just lay back on my bed, close my eyes and be transported to those magical summers and peaceful winters at that incredible house. Cross country skiing through the woods. Fishing in the river. Linking arms with my cousin Jude and walking down the winding driveway to collect mail for Grandma. Singing in the woods with my cousin Dawn and talking about boys. Hanging from trees and swimming deep down in the pool with the goggles and flippers on. Sneaking into the corn when the neighbour’s farmer’s field met with the edge of the woods. Learning the names of birds. Making Grandpa laugh at ‘mommy mommy’ jokes. Looking at the faded black and white photos of my great grandparents and my own mother as a little girl.
This is the stuff we hold onto. These are the memories that bring the biggest smiles.