Saturday, June 9, 2012


The sound of the wooden steps echoing under my feet as I descended the stairs at my grandparents' house is forever recorded in my mind, as is the faint "chink" from the light bulb cord above the old pink and gray Formica table there in that basement.  Part garage, part kitchen, part laundry room and part workshop, "Cap" and "Gib's" basement was a hub of activity!  It was there that as a young child, my grandmother (Catherine, nicknamed "Cap") would praise me for my slender hands, and then put them to good use washing out canning jars for the hundreds of quarts of tomatoes that were put aside year after year, the excess from their bountiful garden!  It was there on that table that I spread out the new pretty yellow calico we picked out together at the fabric store, and rummaged through her big button jar, picking out little red ones for my favorite, well-loved rag doll which she faithfully and frequently restored to like-new condition!  My grandmother was such an excellent seamstress that, besides doll surgery and beautiful designer-like dresses, she once made a canvas cover for the family's Jeep!  The Jeep was long gone before I came onto the scene, but I recall the many antique Peugeot cars that Granddad (Howard, nicknamed "Gib"), my Dad and his brothers would be working on at any given time in the garage area, not to mention the many deer that periodically hung from the ceiling while they all cheerfully worked on processing the meat each hunting season!  It was in that basement too where my granddad's workshop resided, walls neatly and near completely covered with tools and trinkets, parts and pieces, each having their own place with barely an inch between them, creating a dizzying and yet beautiful, rustic feast for the eyes!

There, also in the basement, the large, white chest freezer sat!  It was enormous to me as a little girl, and perched on top was a heavy, black anvil with a small terrycloth dishtowel tied around the base to keep it from scratching the enamel.  The latch on the chest had long been broken, so the anvil faithfully held the lid shut.  Now, normally a freezer would hold no interest to a child whatsoever, but its contents were of endless enchantment!  Visits to Grandma and Granddaddy's were always crowned with a trip down the steps (*clomp, clomp, clomp --chink!*) to the freezer, sometimes to retrieve bags of frozen berries preserved from their garden for strawberry shortcake, or a quart of PET ice cream, or my coveted favorite at the time-- honey buns!  You have to understand! To a 7-year-old, watching Granddaddy slide that anvil off the freezer and seeing the lid gently spring open was like a pirate gazing with wide-eyed anticipation upon the contents of a treasure chest!  Cold smoke magically rose to reveal the bounty inside!  My eyes never really registered the frozen venison and veggies, but immediately landed upon the cinnamon raisin bread, berries, peaches, and ice cream, and of course the Hostess products which rarely, if ever, graced the inside of my Flintstones lunch box! Selecting a sweet treat was a simple yet beloved tradition for my brother and me!  Once thawed (or better yet, gently warmed), we would consume the sticky, sugary goodness upstairs at the kitchen table and wash it down with a Double Crown Cola, also a staple at Cap and Gib's!  It is a snapshot of the many innocent, predictable happy scenes which played themselves out year after year there in that place with my immediate family, aunts, uncles and cousins!

Just before my grandfather passed into Glory a few weeks ago at the age of 95 (my sweet grandmother having passed a few years earlier), the family held an auction for the house and its contents.  I didn't bid on too many things, but one item I simply could not let go to a stranger was that old black anvil.  Still wrapped in the dishtowel, it was more to me than a hunk of scrap metal or potential doorstop.  It was a symbol of every happy moment I had lived there, no matter how small.  It see it forever in Granddaddy's hands as he smiles and helps me pick out a treat from the "treasure chest."  Crafted from a piece of railroad track, it is also a reminder of the 33 years he worked on the trains of Norfolk & Western, faithfully providing for his family, often away.  There were abundant memories and lessons learned in that home, to be sure, too many to fill this blog over a lifetime.  But in a small way, that silly chest freezer was a little picture of my granddaddy's life.  He was the anvil on that home, solid, strong and steady, always keeping the "lid" on even during very hard times, caring for his wife of 67 years through the frailty and uncertainty of old age, and safeguarding the "treasure" of love and laughter, family and friendships, meals and memories that resided there to the end. A reminder to me to never underestimate the power of simple day-to-day joys and memories we can create for our children, grand children and great grandchildren!  My grandparents (on both sides of my family) did not live fancy lives, but they were marked with hard work, faithfulness, charity and love.

God, as Christ is the Rock in my life, make me a steady and faithful anchor in my home which I open freely and often for the blessing of others!

1 comment:

Parke said...

Priceless and timeless. As I read this post of over 4 years ago I am taken right into that basement. What a gift you have and are. I hope that you will resume posting your thoughts and musings in the near future.