24 December 2009

Grandpa's House

Grandpa's house is the house where I grew up.

Oxford, Ohio, where he lives, has changed a great deal in the meantime. There are a few relict businesses from my days there: the Princess Theater, Bruno's Pizza, Wildberry, SDS Pizza, the Miami Co-op. There is still a sign on a side door to Bill's Arts and Crafts marking the name it had when I spent all my money there, Creative Crafts. But, far more has changed. There are a few purveyors of expresso. Chipotle has made its way from Denver. An Indian take out is moving in. Wal-Mart has become the source of all things. My old junior high school (good riddance), was torn down to make way for a strip mall. Voters recently approved construction of a new high school, although its proposed location, along the most accident prone stretch of highway in the county, seems to ask for trouble. The town is awash with big yellow foreclosure signs, mostly on rentals, and also with new luxury student housing, many Uptown, on High Street. The local hospital is bigger.

The house has moved on too. When my mother died, my father remarried. They have made their home in my old house, but it has been reshaped to reflect its new occupants. The walls have fresh paint in new, bolder colors. Granite has replaced old countertops. Windows have been replaced. The yard has new landscaping. There is more art on the walls, and less paper on flat surfaces. The house is thick with Christian images, bibles, devotional literature and homespun aphorisms. There are more teddy bears, more collectibles, and more display worthy rocks. The study no longer looks like a newspaper stand exploded inside it (at least until you peer into the walk in closets there).

A new generation of children are playing games in the house. My children, my niece, and my stepnieces and stepnephew. My children are driven to investigate the woods in the back where I played as a child, seemingly with far less supervision. The creek that runs there, which was undivided when I played there, has split its course. Young college couples still roam the woods looking for perfect winter pictures and quality time together, although I hadn't noticed them as much when I played there. The deer have become more bold. Getting to know the new family is almost effortless. Everyone is more or less agreeable, is looking to like, and wants to focus on good family time.

The church I attended as a child has added a new worship area and converted the old one into a small chapel. The old one was an A frame. The new one is a big square box with chairs instead of pews. The schedule of weekly jobs for parishioners there now includes "Power Point" operator, who cues up text on big screens that used to be read from books.

My favorite radio station in high school has new migrated to an internet only format, where it holds its own in the alternative rock genre. The town's public radio station has been downgraded to being a repeater for another public radio station out of Cincinnati. New campus buildings continue to spring up in neo-colonial red brick, with painted white wood trim, although some modern architectural accents are slipping in, one by one. The college students are still better dressed than most, and the fraternities and sororities that town is famous for founding, still thrive. The synchronized skating team is winning awards.

I know most of the people on the street where my dad lives, although not all of them lived there when I was growing up. A house next door that had been home to a succession of large families, now holds a couple that is restoring it to a state of grandeur greater than it ever had. You still can't go to the grocery store without seeing someone you know. My old scoutmaster, an ornithologist famous for saying that "you're never more than ten feet from a twist tie," still lives in town. My school friends who joined the military when they graduated from high school are nearing military retirement age.

The people I grew up with have mostly spread to the four winds. It seems like more parents are leaving town to be with their kids, than there are kids coming back to the place where they grew up, although there are some of them too.

Perhaps because the house and the town have changed so much, it doesn't trigger so many memories. It is familiar, but not similar enough to summons up many ghosts, good, bad or indifferent. It is a place to go to sharpen the stone and spent time with family now. Perhaps, this is for the better.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

Wonderful evocative writing. I enjoyed it very much.