A couple summers ago on the 4th of July, I drove my kids to the house I grew up in in Forest Lake, Minnesota. I was on an amazing emotional high after a fun day well spent in the town I seldom visit. The parade was a wonder to behold. Floats, Dairy Princesses and Firemen throwing obscene amounts of candy. Classic cars, Marching Bands and an unusual amount of clowns. I enjoyed seeing friends from high school, spending time with our extended family and a BBQ at my sister’s house in Stacy. Being that my childhood home was just off the freeway on the way home to Carver, I knew making a quick stop would be a fun way to end our day’s adventures.
My mom passed away in 2013, but lost the house to Bank Foreclosure a few years earlier when she went into an assisted living facility. We drove down the gravel dirt road to the corner of 135th Ave and Humber Street. The white house with brown trim looked smaller yet inviting.The trees looked like giants and towered over our home. Nestled on just under 2 acres with woods surrounding, it was an ideal place to grow up. Plenty of places to hide, plenty of places to explore.
“Mom, which one is it?” My then 11 year old daughter Lily questioned. My heart broke a little. Lily had been to mom’s house a number of times when she was younger, but her sweet little memories must have started to fade.
“That’s the house. Right there.” I replied as I turned to smile at her.
“Mom, did we come here a lot? Did I play here with Grandma?” She asked as tears began to poke the corners of my eyes.
“Lil, you didn’t come here a lot to play with Grandma. Mostly Grandma came to our house. Grandma’s house was old and needed a lot of work done. The carpets needed to be replaced and I didn’t feel comfortable letting you play on them.” Why did I say that? What made me think that this was the information I needed to share with Lily? A child who clearly missed her grandmother.
I then regaled her with stories of all the fun things we did do with Grandma Jo. Swimming and walking and reading stories and shopping and eating at great restaurants. Farmers markets and garage sales and movies and laughing together. Making chocolates and enjoying apple cider and baking bread. Baking cookies and snapping beans and making sun tea.
Lily replied, “ I remember all of that. I miss Grandma. Did you do all of those things with Grandma when you lived here?”
I paused for a brief moment, “Lily, I did all those things with Grandma when I was little. I loved spending time with Grandma. She was amazing. I miss her too. A lot. I miss her every day. But today, I am showing you the house I grew up in so I can continue sharing with you all of the amazing things about Grandma. I loved living here. That’s the house I will always remember Grandma living in. The house I love. The house I will treasure. “
Lily was quiet for a bit. “ Mom, can we come here again?” I smiled as a single tear escaped. “Yes, Lily. We sure can. Remember. That’s the house Grandma lived in and loved. Take a mental picture so you will always remember it.”
She winced one eye closed and clucked her tongue like the flash of a camera. “Got it mom. It’s all up here.” Lily explained as she pointed to her head.
My heart changed a bit that day. I now share more stories with my kids and encourage them to talk more freely about the Grandma they miss. About the Grandma they love. Lily asked yesterday when we will drive to Grandma’s house again. She said she wanted to go for a walk in the woods. My heart soared as I looked at the calendar and wrote down a date to visit in early October when the leaves are changing color. “ We can go before then if you like to Mom.” We just might Lily. We just might.