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Defining a Home:

by Kaitlyn Cope 3 months ago in grief

hoʊm (noun)

Grandma’s house: grændˌmɑz haʊs (noun) 1. A huge, canary yellow house on top of a grassy hill, surrounded by flowers of pinks, reds, blues, and greens. Home to at least six rabbits dwelling in the locked cages lined along the garage and a small Samoyed outside dog that goes by the name of Snowball. In the summertime, you will know it’s grandma’s because you will always find a blue inflated swimming pool right outside the patio, a green, flourishing vegetable garden containing everything from green beans to watermelons, and a wire archway not far away, vines wrapped and woven through it with plump, purple and green juicy grapes.

When you walk through the front door of the yellow house, you will find yourself in a living room filled with pictures of you, your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins above and around the television. You will see a curio cabinet filled with Precious Moments figurines, each picked for a special occasion in your grandma’s life. There’s one for her wedding day, each of her children's births, her grandkids and even one for Snowball. You will see a second tv stand beside an ancient, brown rocking chair. This large wooden stand displays your grandmother’s massive collection of Hershey’s Kisses collectibles, every doll and tin. In the drawers of this stand, you will find a plethora of coloring books and board games filled to the brim. Beaming, you will sit there cross-legged with your grandmother for hours, playing games of Old Maid and coloring Mickey and Minnie Mouse with her. In that living room, you will write your first story. You will craft, write, illustrate and eventually read it aloud to her in the kitchen that is decorated in red and brown roosters and chickens, all while she makes her famous homemade chicken and noodles. After reading the story you will notice the smell of the chicken and look up to see a stick of butter being blended into the mashed potatoes. You will, of course, ask to help. You start by washing your hands with the blue, Dawn kitchen dish soap. When you’ve finished, you start cutting the thinly rolled out homemade noodles with a pizza cutter, carefully pushing it forward along the dough, into noodle sized pieces. Once you’re finished, your grandma will fill your ears with praises of

“Thank you”, “good job”, and “you’ll make an excellent chef” making you feel quite accomplished before telling you to wash up. Grandma wipes the flour off your face and shirt, before you go to the bathroom to rinse your hands with too much soap, and dry them on the soft towel. As you breathe in the smell of the lavender soap, you’ll skip back into the kitchen to show grandma that you are all clean.

There are two doors in grandma’s kitchen. One leads to a porch that you remember your parents helping grandma build. When you open the second door, your nose is instantly filled with the distinct smell of cigarette smoke, however, the back room is still nicely furnished with carpet, couches, and a buffet. Walking up the stairs that are right off the kitchen, leads you to your own mother’s old bedroom. It’s not much, there is enough space to house your uncle’s childhood pet frog in a large glass terrarium, that after 10 years, is still alive, and three extra beds for when you, your brother, and sister visit. On the floor of the bedroom, you can find a burnt spot from where your mother had left her curling iron. In this room, grandma tells you bedtime stories filled with princes, princesses and fantasy every night you stay there.

While claiming your bed, you realize your brother has attempted to take the bigger bed that you always sleep in. You fling his stuffed blue elephant to the bed across from yours and tuck in your favorite stuffed Mickey Mouse under the giant purple quilt, that grandma will later gift to you. After getting settled in, you noticed the scent of the chicken and noodles and follow your nose down the stairs all the way to the kitchen table. You eat your favorite meal with your siblings and grandmother. Once everyone is finished feasting, you and your sister color more and your brother plays with his cars in the living room, this happens while grandma cleans up the mess of flour and chicken juices from dinner. After, she will scoop all three of you a bowl of ice cream, each into your own special bowl. Your brother has the red bowl with yellow polka dots, your sister the pink one with a bunny in the middle, and yours is blue with yellow stripes. If she is out of ice cream, she will make freshly popped popcorn, another favorite among you and your siblings. After, your grandma will put in Lilo and Stitch or The Incredibles and you will hear the laughter from everyone in the room.

You leave grandma’s, and years pass. Your short visits to the canary yellow house, never change. Always filled with the smell of home cooked meals and cigarettes. Eventually you will leave your hometown and go to college, and your visits to grandma’s will grow to be few and far between. Halfway through your first spring semester, you wake up to discover three calls from your mother and a voicemail that you wait to listen to. You sit up on the edge of your bed covered with blue sheets and blankets.You quickly start to get ready for class in your small dorm room cramped with all your things including a wardrobe, bed, and desk. As you are getting your books together, you decide to call your mom back.

“Hey, is everything okay?” you’re hesitant to ask.

“No, it’s not.”

Your voice quiets and your breathing wavers, “What’s wrong?” your hands tremble while holding your phone.

Your mom seems to brace herself before saying, “last night grandma had a heart attack and passed away.” You feel sick like you will pass out if you don’t get to the chair sitting at your desk.

All you can choke out is, “What?” your face turns red, throat tightens and tears start to fall. You can’t help but think about how you never responded to her “I love you” comments last week on Facebook. Your face goes white, and your legs take off for the bathroom with your phone still in hand. Sitting over the toilet heaving, but nothing comes out, you hear your parents offer to come and get you, but you convince them not to because you have a test that morning. You return to your room after washing up, ending the call with your parents.

This call will cause you phone anxiety. From this day forward you will begin to panic when you lose your phone, frantically searching until it’s found. If someone in the family calls you more than once, you will drop everything to call back. You will start all the callbacks the same way, “is everything okay?” Your family doesn’t get it “Yeah, how are you?” You’ll let out a sigh of relief, still panicked for a few minutes after.

Sitting in your desk chair and letting that phone call sink in, a friend walks into your dorm room to walk you to class. He notices your tears and wraps his arms around your weak body. When you finally gain control over your crying, you both walk to class and take your test, distracted. After further arrangements have been made, you take a week's hiatus from school for the viewing and funeral. When your dad picks you up, you cry the entire ride home. Seeing her stiff body in the funeral home is among one of the hardest days of your life. You definitely took it the hardest, or maybe you're just the most emotional. Of course your family was devastated, but they seemed to at least have a grip. They would occasionally cry, but it seemed that you were crying all the time. They would try comforting you with hugs, but of course, you only cried harder.

A Family Home: ə fæməli hoʊm (noun) 1. A huge, canary yellow house on top of a grassy hill. Home to five kids, two parents, and a red bloodhound named Copper. In the summertime, you will know it’s the family’s home because there will be children running around in constant motion, undone laundry, and something is always on the television.

Another spring semester passes, and your parents have bought grandma’s house. You were of course called to help paint and move items in the house. The house has been gutted of all of your grandma’s belongings. It has been distributed among family, sold, or donated. Your parents have each room painted a different color; the living room is blue with red curtains, and the Hershey’s paraphernalia, old tv stand, and ancient brown chair is nowhere to be found. In that room, you still watch movies, but not Lilo and Stitch or The Incredibles. There is a desk, a tv, and table filled with signs and Precious Moments figurines dedicated to grandma, including a small gold teardrop with some of her ashes inside. The kitchen is white and is no longer decorated with roosters and chickens. In fact, it feels empty. You notice there isn’t much of a theme at all. When you wash up for dinner you use the plain antibacterial soap that your parents bought. Sometimes the family still makes homemade chicken and noodles, but the noodles are store-bought and frozen, and you don’t ask to help. When you scoop yourself a bowl of ice cream or pour a bowl of cereal, you can’t find your special bowl, all you have is white bowls with blue rims.

The patio has been turned into a craft room for your mother and is furnished with even nicer furniture, and the cigarette smell has disappeared. Your mother sits in there to read and have alone time. Your mother’s old bedroom has turned into your sister's room, filled with much more things than you had ever seen in the room, and the burnt spot still annoyingly remains. Outside, there are no longer rabbits or a blue pool. Snowball is long gone but his cage still remains. He has been replaced with Copper, an inside dog. Your father has replaced the bunny cages with beehives and in Snowball’s cage, there are now chickens pecking feed out of the dog’s blue food dish. The garage has been turned into a woodworking shop for your dad instead of a storage space for bikes. The garden and the porch still remain, and dad built a new and improved grape arbor. Everything looks nicely decorated and put together. At first you worried it would be hard to remember the memories you shared with grandma, but it proved difficult to forget when living in the same house. You tell your mom how nice the house looked, you hug her tightly, but then rush off to the bathroom. You pull back the gray sunflower shower curtain, sit at the edge of the porcelain tub, and cry.


Kaitlyn Cope

Doing my best.

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