Even though they must have moved 100 times in their lifetime, the interior of my maternal grandparent's home has remained the same in my memory in regard to each of their houses. My grandfather was a Methodist minister and in the North Texas conference, they rotated churches every 3 years or so, and prior to that, he had been in the army, so was also sent to different locations. However, there was never any confusion or disorder even when we grandchildren were on one of our extended visits. It was as if the very walls commanded respect and reverence. I yearned for that serenity when away from it; for something inside me totally relaxed and felt at peace when there. There was such complete symmetry in the way each day progressed, and things were exactly as I expected them to be throughout the unfolding of the summer months. My life at that point must have needed some stablilization.
Lying half on and half off the 9x12 carpet on the hardwood floors in the living room, the big red roses staring up at me from their forest green background, my bare legs feeling the contrast between the rough wool, and the shiny hardwood; I felt as if I were the visiting royalty. For here, unlike my own home, there were no household chores for me to do. Reading one of the many books in the mahogany bookcase in the living room, and listening to "The Life and Loves of Helen Trent" on the radio set in it's own console with gold threaded maroon fabric covering the speaker, was my idea of heaven.
Yet even heaven has restrictions for I was laying on the floor because children were not allowed to lounge on the dusky rose damask sofa with it's soft plump throw pillows, and matching arm chair. Neither could we put our fingers on the freshly waxed tables or our heads on the starched white lace doilies which graced each sofa and chair arm. The hardest thing to "look, but not touch" were the blown glass flamingoes which seemed to float gracefully above the two tiered coffe table, the stately dining room table, and the matching mahogany buffet. The temptation was mainly removed by the fact these delicately colored mauve, magenta, and seagreen flamingoes had been collected through the years by my grandmother, and each had it's own story. Somehow, I knew if I touched the fragile breakables with even one finger, they would shatter, and the consequences would be too terrible to comtemplate. But even the thoughts of them breaking didn't keep me from standing inches from them, my face level with the top of the buffet, and memorizing every graceful line with loving eyes. (They reside in my home today on my buffet, and although I COULD touch them, I don't out of the same fear.....that they will shatter).
It never seemed hot in what was always termed the front room (and usually was at the front of the house). There was no air conditioning for the middle class in the forties and fifties. My grandparents had weathered the depression when the main concern was not whether your body was at a comfortable temperature, but whether you had had enough to eat so your growling stomach wouldn't keep you awake. Therefore, they closed the floor length rose beige drapes during the heat of the day to "protect the good furniture" from the rays of the hot Texas sun and to preserve what little coolness remained from the early morning.
There was always a hall leading from or to the two bedrooms. Many times I paused to straighten the matching runner to the rose patterned carpet. In each house, my Methodist preacher grandfather and his family lived in, there was always a "blue" bedroom, and a "pink" bedroom. The blue bedroom had the blonde maple furniture with a dresser used as a dressing table with a bench and a large hollywood style oval mirror. It had small drawers on each side and 2 long drawers in the middle on top of which sat powder in a glass dish among other enticing female necessities. A white chenille bedspread covered the double bed. The windows were covered with white organdy flounced curtains held back by organdy ties. Privacy was obtained in this, as in every room, by spanking clean white venetian blinds. The room, of course, derived it's name from the blue walls.
The pink bedroom was the same in every respect except that pink was used instead of blue, and the furniture was dark wood. There was a small vanity table with white ruffled organdy skirt with pink trim, and a small round mirror above it. In addition, there was a larger dresser on high feet with several drawers and a mirror. The double bed was a dark wood and high off the ground. In addition, there was a "chiffarobe", a piece of furniture with one side for hanging clothes, and the other with drawers to put folded clothes in. My grandmother told me that when my grandparents were first married that she ironed all of my grandfather's clothes including his underwear (that was before permanent press and dryers). The blue bedroom was my grandparent's room. These rooms were only for sleeping and changing clothes in. The beds were always made; an unmade bed was as scandalous as sitting on it after it was made. It was simply unheard of to lounge in the bedroom; if you were in bed after seven a.m.; you had better be ill.
Meals were served and cooked three times a day; something I was never used to. At home, it was cereal for breakfast, and a sandwich for lunch, both of which I usually made for myself. And my grandmother was a wonderful southern cook. She made everything from scratch, and it melted in your mouth. Piecrust, cookies, cakes, dumplings; it tasted like manna from heaven. At each meal, she placed something from each food group on the table, so it always looked like a feast to me, but it taught me to eat vegetables, and to do the same with my family. I couldn't however taste the brains that she cooked with eggs. Alas, though I watched her fervently, I didn't learn to make pastry from scratch. And now, of course, I don't have to.
The bathroom as well as the kitchen were strictly utilitarian in nature, but constantly scrubbed clean, as was the whole house. It was vacummed, scoured, polished, and mopped every day without exception. Saturdays were like spring house cleaning every week. My grandmother had my grandfather pull out the refrigerator every week as well as the sofa and arm chair so she could vacuum behind and underneath. One time, my grandfather grumbled: "You make work where there is none." If there was a speck of dust in a room, she was chasing it with a dustmop. My grandmother, Julia, told me that after she would clean a room, she would get a chair. put it in the middle of the room, and stand on it to see how the whole room looked to my grandfather, Raymond, as he was close to six feet, and she was barely a couple of inches over five feet (she always had erect posture, so that probably added a half inch). I doubt that my grandfather looked as closely as she did for the dust bunnies. After she finished her work each day just before my grandfather came in from work, my grandmother would bathe, and change from her "work dress" to a clean, ironed house dress, put on make-up and fix her hair for my grandfather. What a legacy she gave me; she was a beautiful woman whose family emigrated from France several generations before.
Julia never had idle hands; if she was sitting; she was knitting or crocheting or doing some kind of handwork. And she was mainly on her feet working in the house from dawn to dark, but I never heard her complain. She imprinted me greatly, and although she's been gone for twenty nine years, I think of her every day in every way as I'm going about my daily chores or looking at the mementoes I have inherited or doing something she taught me.
Of course, a child's memory is strict and narrow but even taken with a grain of salt, the memories remain true. My grandparent's house and their love remains the most stable factor that I knew throughout my childhood, and I still miss them, even though they've been gone now almost as long as I knew them.