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  • Writer's pictureAbigail

The House that Grandpa Built

A creative writing piece in memorial of Grandpa Thompson and the House that he built.

You can begin at my front door, after walking down the timber trellised, broom finished path. See potted plants to the left, the occasional garden gnome between. Face my warm timber leaf, paint finished in white, feel its solid woodiness as you reach for the knocker. Wait for Loris to greet you.

As the door opens you will be addressed by the jewel of my innards, the entry quartz marble feature wall, on which plants and ornaments a-plenty are pinned. This was the style of my era, a celebration of stone and materiality for all to see.

This is the house that Grandpa built, which he knew by feel. The upper parts of the asbestos-insides sparkle, their dimpled plaster looking down to the rooms below.

Dressed to impress, but practically planned, a kiwi-esque, Frank-Lloyd Wright imitation. Sitting quietly back from the road and addressing a Northern garden patch, I have always thought myself well situated, never too confronting. Considerate and comfortable, much like my until-now residents.

Come through to the lounge, left of the front door. Heavy fabric curtains clothe the large bay windows, their depth turning a step to the exterior envelope. The gas fireplace and large television set compete for centre of attention on opposite walls between comfy armchairs. Alan’s leather brown aside Loris’ cream one.

From here walk to the dining room, where Alan’s solid steps many times passed across the carpet to eat a dinner. Dishes passed through the servery and sounds of Loris cooking in the kitchen next-door. Sit and eat with familiar faces captured in frames all-round.

This is the house Grandpa built, every inch. Red clinker brick walls founded on a concrete perimeter. Paint-finished timber skirting boards and soft green, tile, heavy roof-hat.

Next Alan will invite you to his garage and workshop. Down two steps and see his prized possession between the tools and cabinetry, sitting in space smelling of old petrol fumes. The Holden Brougham, its long green paint job slick, hide seats inside. Even after Alan’s driver license expired, keen to take you for a ride.

Loris would insist on washing up, but still want your company, so stand on the cold mottled lino floor, hold a damp tea towel and admire the ceramic figures all about. Two strawberry-men sit atop the fridge, their feet dangling down. Accompanied by miniature geese and frogs, the sights are rich to behold. Listen to the story behind each standing next to the pantry. Its carcass painted white with a plastic walnut veneer leaf. Adjacent cupboards and drawers, exposed hinges and recessed finger pulls.

Now never mind the school report card, tell me about the neighbour’s pumpkin patch, the grapevine out back. Or about that time Alan was cleaning out the gutters, tottering on a ladder when he was well past it. It was a good thing that he didn’t fall down.

This is the house that Grandpa built. Outside with grass between my toes, running in the backyard with my sister behind. Hopscotch on the poured stepping stones, warm from the sun. Trying to roller skate across the orange-pebble terrace framed with exposed aggregate finished concrete.

My two bathrooms, toilet and laundry lined up to a row, with one bedroom between. Services connected with a single-stroke waste pipe to the street. Across the hall the boy’s bedroom stands, that Mark and Dean once occupied, grandchildren since. At the end of the house the master bedroom looks to the garden, its dressing room and ensuite on the East. Snores rumble down the hall from this direction, to be heard by all those trying to sleep.

Your turn now, off you go to bed. On the high, hard mattress where the boys once slept. Enjoy the musty smell of old, well-used sheets, pull the rainbow coloured crochet blankets over. If you venture out in the night, see Helen’s room across the way, where a young girl used to play. Dolls from long ago paired with soft toys to play house or adventure. Plates of treats, plastic cups and pretend tea.

I dare you to sneak past the china cabinet, the inside-tableware looking still and silent, and into Alan’s study, just for a peek. See the big wooden desk with safe beneath. Piles of paper, making the room look full and heavy.

Retrace your steps to the bathroom for a drink of water. Turn the copper-coloured-glass faucets. Bath and built-in shower are just behind resting in a brown mosaic tile shroud. The shower next-door with its stainless steel floor, the walls dressed in a refrain of blue and yellow.

On schedule in the morning the newspaper will arrive, turning pages heard and fresh ink smelt alongside breakfast. More butter with your toast? Sit at the round dining room table and listen to the bird sounds through the single-glazed windows. See the yellow-green glass manifestation strip across the sliding door faces.

This is the house that Grandpa built, every wall of each room.

I miss the house as I miss Grandpa. I miss the home that he built.


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