My grandparent’s home was a second home to me. They visited us only a few times, and then after that if we wanted to see them, we had to drive to visit them in Birmingham. Every summer until I reached my teens, my parents would drive half way to Gadsden and my grandparents would pick me up to spend a week at their house over the summer. They said they didn’t visit us because they didn’t like travelling, but I suspect some of it had to do with the fact that our house reeked from two chain-smokers living there. Lord knows I didn’t want to live there, but I didn’t have many options at the time.
As I’ve recently discovered, you can find almost anything online. These pictures are from the last time the house was sold.
I only had one set of grandparents growing up. My mother’s parents died before I was born. I called them Mama and Papa.
As I’ve been doing with the pictures from my old home in Chattanooga, I’ll journal about these pictures and uncover/recover memories and thoughts. It is a very useful (if difficult) practice for healing. Much of those realizations don’t get posted, but some of what I learn/experience ends up in short stories.
Here’s the information from the real estate listing –
2 full, 1 partial Bathrooms
Lot size: 7,896 sqft
Built in 1922
(This is from a different site)
“Fantastic Highland Park home that is move-in ready! This 2-story 1920’s home is ready for it’s new owner and convenient to downtown, shopping . . . . walk to restaurants with fantastic neighbors! Hardwoods throughout with Huge family room, huge dining room and roomy kitchen! Half bath on main level, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths up plus office! 2 car detached garage in rear with workshop. The front porch is great to unwind in the evenings and visit with friends! Basement is great for storage. HVAC ’05, Irrigation system and new landscaping ’09, Welcome Home!”
There was no HVAC when my grandparents lived there. Not even a window unit or fans. We didn’t mind because we didn’t have central air in our house either. Now I think I’d melt in that Birmingham humidity.
This is the front porch. We sat out here a lot, in big brown wicker chairs, or rockers, or on the fabulous porch swing. The porch was shielded from the sun, very private, with tall shrubs (privet). The mailbox was on the house by the front door – all mail was delivered by foot.
Turn to the left and there is a sun room. My grandparents had recliners and the TV there, along with a daybed. I took many naps there. They’d put their home-made Christmas tree there, to the right. It was silver-white. The “trunk” was a broom pole, painted white, with holes drilled in at an angle, to accommodate the wire and tinsel “branches”. My grandparents had a lot of money, but they didn’t spend it on stuff. This tree was long before “artificial” trees were the thing to have.
There are a few steps here at this landing. My grandmother kept a conch shell here – it is probably 200 years old. It had belonged to her mother in law. It was something I looked for every time I visited and the one thing I took when the house was sold. I still have it. My brother, however, took as much as he could shove into a moving van, saying it was all family heirlooms. This was not cleared with our aunt, the person in charge of the estate. He probably lost all of it when he had to declare bankruptcy.
Go down the stairs into the kitchen and the stove will be on your left. This is a new one. My grandmother did not cook – we used the stove to warm up wet shoes and make mud pies – out of real mud.
I’d never seen it this bright. My grandparents never used this room – not as a dining room, not as any room. I’m not even sure why they went through the motions of having a dining room at all. It would have made a nice art studio. There was a dining room table (huge, wood, claw feet)here. The drapes would have fit in well at a funeral home. The room was a way to go to the breakfast area – that is all. I used it once, to sit at and compose my notes as I called neighbors and friends to tell them when the funeral service would be (this was after my Dad died).
Here is the breakfast area. I’d eat here with my grandmother. We’d have cereal, because that didn’t involve cooking. I don’t ever recall Papa in here. They ate out most of the time, and didn’t even bring leftovers home for reheating. Three meals a day, every day, for a lifetime. With two children. It was his agreement to her – that he’d make enough money that she’d never have to cook.
To the left of the breakfast room was a cabinet for dishes and glasses. There was also a doorframe that had my heights and dates of visit on it. Each grandchild (4) had their own side. We’d get measured every time.
Here are the bedrooms. The interesting part is that I don’t know which one is which from these pictures. Our “stuff” makes the room, more than the shape of the room. If I could have seen outside the windows, I could probably figure it out.
Maybe my grandmother’s room. They had separate bedrooms after she gave birth to the second child. Grandfather didn’t want any children at all. I’d sleep in the second bed when I’d visit with her – this was even after my Dad and his sister no longer lived there. We’d always share a room together. I’d go to sleep listening to the sound of the train in the distance, and feeling the nubbly white coverlet on the bed. When I woke, there was always a present under the pillow. This happened every night I was there, even if it was for a week. Mama said it was the “Birmingham fairy”.
My Dad had the smallest, darkest room, the one that looked out onto the driveway and the neighbor’s house. No greenery in sight. This is in spite of the fact that he was the oldest child, and a son. His bedroom was as far from his father’s (and he was a Jr.) as possible. Was he put there, or was this his choice? He died in that room. I feel like it was a such a sad room, even before that. He had to hide when he played classical music records. His father thought it was a waste of time to want to be a conductor. How sad, to have to hide who you are. There was a sad piece of needlepoint here too, from Mama’s mother. She was not allowed to work – her husband thought it was a sign of poverty if the man didn’t make enough money to support his family all by himself. She wasn’t allowed to do much at all. Not even cook.
Here is a view of the garage – the workshop was to the left. That was my grandfather’s special place to be. I am grateful that he allowed me into his room where he spent so much time. He had dried “dollar tree” branches hanging up in it.
Here are pictures I took of the outside when I visited Birmingham in the summer of 2015. I was not brave enough to go up to the front door and ask to see the inside.