We parked (just like we always did) in the yard, near where Grandpa’s “shop” and the old pickup truck always sat. We were hesitant and glanced around the old neighborhood like fugitives. The house across the street – the original home of the piano that now stands in my own home – appeared empty and dilapidated. Just behind us, old Claude’s home no longer had astroturf and a glider on the front porch, and it did not look as though its current residents would welcome the entire neighborhood to take cover together in the storm cellar as we always did when a tornado threatened.
One by one they would turn in for bed and come past us there on the couch, and sometimes we would pretend to be sleeping, but often we didn’t bother. “No snoring,” Grandpa would say with false sternness as he walked past us into the bedroom. Following our family’s script, we’d giggle and reply that HE was the one who snored, anticipating his response: “I stay awake all night to make sure I don’t snore.”
In the bedroom, the wood floors were still painted red – a nod to the Arkansas roots of The Painted House. Mom remembered painting them – there certainly wasn’t money to refinish the floors. Salvaged remnants from throughout the house lay on the side porch where Grandmother had stashed piles of National Geographic magazines and their enclosed maps. Today, a stack of them dating back to 1929 sits on a built-in shelf in my old home.
On the front porch where the mail was delivered and neighbors brought the excess of their gardens and so much sitting and visiting took place through the years, the paint was peeling, but stubborn vines rooted in decades past were still fighting the good fight.