I have just been re-introduced to a childhood friend, Dana.
She e-mailed me to ask if I was Dan’s sister and if I had grandparents named Vic and Gertrude.
She got me thinking about Vic and Gertie (they were actually my great aunt and uncle on my fathers side)
Uncle Vic was a huge square quiet man with slicked back greying hair who I think was in the military.
Aunt Gertie was a short and wide sickly drunk with the prerequisite gramma permed wiry hair and a very bad bladder.
I don’t recall any mention of their own children, so they enjoyed it when kids visited.
I only knew them in their old age. Aunt Gertie spent most of her time upstairs in their little kitchen drinking and smoking. Uncle Vic stayed downstairs in the family room watching TV and drinking (I think)
My mother visited them on a regular basis, checking in on them and filling any need.
What I remember most about them is their house. I loved their home. I wanted to live in it when I grew up.
We would have family reunions there and I helped clean the house for Aunt Gertie when she got too frail to do it herself.
My mother owned this white crushed velvet couch with Romanesque wood pillars on the sides with matching tables in our living room. This room was not lived in, or walked in or touched in any way. We had a small den in which the TV, and my father resided.
When guests came we got to be in that living room. Whenever Aunt Gertie would come she would pee on the couch. I have no idea how this happened but it happened. every time. My mother was so distraught over having to turn the yellow stained cushions over that we stopped having them over.
Back to their house, it was an old split level house, but not like the 70’s style.
It sat on a slight slope with a beautiful green grassed yard. All around the yard was bushes to hide it from the street. To one side was a rock wall. We used to climb up and down the wall, pretending it was much bigger, it was a dangerous thing to do, because we were told not to, it was by the busy street.
To the front of yard, the slope was uninterrupted, so we tumbled down to bottom.
On the other side, way up in the back corner was a shed, a greenhouse and covered garden work bench. They had a huge old brick fireplace where all the food was prepared. When I walked under the covering of grapevines to the bench it was like walking into a fantasy forest setting. Old pots and tools lined the bench and pots of misc flowers everywhere. Its truly fascinating to see bunches of green grapes hanging over your head. I don’t know what they did with the grapes, but as a child I didn’t care. Uncle Vic spent lots of time out there. I mowed their lawn for them many times, I seem to remember a time when Uncle Vic was hospitalized.
The yard was mysterious and so was the house.
I love a house filled with life, memories, things, different than my own. That house was. While our house was kept so meticulously clean, theirs had a lived-in yet tidy appearance, except for the living room.
Oh, where to begin. Walking into the house was the stairs, left going up, right going down. I remember I jumped down the stairs (was told not to) I hit my head on the top ceiling part and came crashing down on my butt. Cracked my coccyx. Seriously.
Sheepishly carrying a pillow around to every class (I was in Jr. High) explaining to all that I had cracked my tail bone. Ahh, memories.
Dark wood covered all the rooms downstairs except the work room and bathroom. To the right was the door to the 1 car garage, I remember cleaning the house, hearing the car pull in and getting back to work, instead of gazing into cupboards I had no business being in.
To the left was a big laundry room complete with washer/dryer, clothes line, big double sink, freezer, and the walls covered with cupboards full of canned food. Home canned food, so I should say glassed preserved food. To me a huge room with big gramma panties hanging on the line and cupboards half open with stuff peeking out.
On the outside of that room in the hallway were shelves, full of knick-knacks, figurines, pictures, life. The major part of my cleaning job there was to dust. everything. It could me a couple of hours just to spot clean the whole place. I think my mom would come and do the heavy cleaning. She would also take Aunt Gertie to the hairdressers.
I remember Aunt Gertie sitting in the tiny alcove of the kitchen, digging in her purse to get me cash. Smells of cigarette smoke and greasy food abound.