Monday, May 19, 2008

My Grandfather's House

Yesterday we went to a post-wedding brunch at Luke's parents' house in Leonia, which is the next town over from Englewood. (It turns out that the Bonanomis and my family went to the same primary-care physician.) After we left, I asked Gary's dad if we could cruise around Englewood a bit so I could see my old haunts. We drove past my mother's old apartment, past the cemetery where I used to play with friends -- explains a lot, doesn't it? -- past the office building which was once the middle school I attended. Those were all on the same main drag, but then I decided that it would be nice to go see my grandfather's house.

This is the house my mother's parents bought for $6,000 in 1931. It's where my mother and uncle grew up (although they spent a while living with their aunt and uncle on Long Island after their mother was killed in a car accident, which also put my grandfather in the hospital for six months). When my parents split up, my mother moved back to Englewood to be near her father, and we spent a lot of time at his house. I slept over there fairly regularly, and loved the attic, which was full of mysterious boxes and parcels, including props he'd used in his painting. I hadn't been inside the house since 1987, when my grandfather died. His second wife moved away, and my mother and uncle sold the house, which they had inherited. (Wife #2, who was a truly miserable person and who was as happy to be rid of us as we were to be rid of her, got everything else, including my grandfather's artwork.)

Yesterday, as we approached the house, I saw that it was for sale. And then I saw that there was an open house.

So Gary and his mother and I went inside. We were the only people there other than the realtor, who was delighted to show us around once I told him the story. He even took a photo of me and Gary in the house, although somehow it got lost when he tried to e-mail it to me. I didn't have my camera with me, or I'd have taken dozens of photos.

The house has had at least two owners since I was last inside, and it showed. The kitchen had been renovated, and a half-bath added downstairs. The musty old attic is now fully finished, with a full bathroom, and the house now has central air conditioning. But it was still recognizably the same place, and each room brought back memories. That was especially true when I started descending the stairs into the basement, which my grandfather had used as a workshop and which the other owners have kept for the same purpose. It smelled exactly the same as when I was a little girl, and the odor brought a rush of particularly strong memories. I expected to see Jerome (I never called him Grandpa) tinkering with trays of parts, bits of metal I loved to play with.

At some point, I called my mother in Philly and said, "Guess where I am now?" When I told her, she got choked up. I wish she'd been able to be with me. She was also quite bemused when I told her that the listing price is $679,000 (although the realtor told me he expects to get a bit less than that).

I'm so happy that I decided to take the detour to Jerome's house, and that my timing was so good! I suspect that being back inside the house will be the highlight of this trip.


  1. That sounds like a really neat time, Susan. You're lucky. I've been past my family's old homes a time or two and they didn't look at all the same, nor was it possible to wander through them. Which is just as well, I suppose. I'd probably have cried.


  2. My parents' old house is about 400 yards away from ours (but it took us a long time to get here!) I'm not sure I could bear to go inside.

    Glad you had such an enjoyable experience.


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