The End Of An Era
Today marks a bittersweet day in our life. My family and I are going to my grandmother’s home of over seventy-five years to empty its contents and prepare it for a new owner. It is sweet for bringing that chapter of our lives to a close in a humble and respected manner yet bitter for the sheer fact that it will be the last time I set foot in a home which brought an amazing amount of joy to our lives and solid proof that she, my outstanding little grandmother, is really gone forever.
I suppose a bit of history is necessary in understand the meaning behind this house. My grandfather purchased this quaint home in the 1930’s in a small city in Upstate, New York as a gift for his newlywed, my grandmother, as a place to raise their family. They had three boys, all of whom were brought up here. When my grandfather passed away in the 1960’s, his sons felt the need to allow their mother to continue to reside in the home. In the time that I walked through the oriental rug-adorned floors, there was merriment, laughter, pure joy and celebration that often took place. The stucco walls witnessed many gatherings of beloved ancestry, years and years of history is held among the Venetian artwork that hangs on those walls.
We visited her quite frequently. In my younger years, we would go for every holiday. At Christmastime, she would have shopped for all the right food and have it displayed and ready for her grandchildren to share. She adorned her home in many decorations, and we would often bring the tree and trim it together, as a family. The silver strands of tinsel dripped from its branches and vintage bulbs lit the front nook of her vast living room. She had the most tacky centerpieces for a well-set dining table, always prepared to serve a delicious meal. Over the course of our winter break from school, we would dine on fresh rib roast, ravioli and meatballs with her homemade sauce, and salads with her unforgettable vinaigrette dressing. She cooked it all in a small kitchen in wallpaper printed with a floral repeat and faux-wood cabinetry which my father had redone for her over the years to surround her with beauty as she created. After Christmas came New Year’s Eve, a holiday that holds the most memories in my mind.
New Year’s Eves were celebrated by all of our relatives, near and far. Great Aunts and Uncles would come with their children and later, grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren, and we would eat, drink and be merry with the best company money couldn’t buy. Mary, Jeanette, Helena and Joe, Edith and Joe – my paternal grandfather’s side of the family – would sit in one area of the house but mingle with the other relatives as if they were their own. Tony and Mary, Laura and Art, Peter and Lillian, Julia, Francis – siblings and their spouses from my paternal grandmother’s side – made their way through the house, making quite sure to talk with everyone they passed. We mingled and mixed like a scene from The Great Gatsby, at least that’s what it felt like as a young girl. We had noise makers and horns ready to sound at midnight. Our party hats were on, literally and figuratively, which sometimes displayed the ‘Happy New Year’ message clearly for all to see. The archway between her living and dining rooms was strung in multi-colored balloons that we filled with air from our very own lungs in the hours before. One of my favorite memories was from my Uncle Tony, my grandmother’s brother, who concealed a pin in his hands and would casually walk by the balloon arc and pop one at random. The laughter that followed rings in my head to this day. Oh, the joy! Music sounded faintly from the record player, usually some old Italian songs. Sometimes I would sit and play the baby grand, another gift from my grandfather to my grandmother at one point in their lives. Little curly-haired heads of gray and white, fresh from the beauty salon, would gather around me and sing. Close to midnight, the champagne was poured and we all sipped to toast to a new year. We hugged and kissed, we danced a little, maybe sang along and swayed, arm-in-arm, with Auld Lang Syne. Shortly after midnight, we would gather in the dining room to sing Happy Birthday to my Great Aunt Mary, Tony’s wife, who was born on the first of the year. Of course then, we ate cake and chattered some more, catching up on what the year has brought to our lives.
When I was a teen, I resented going. I did not realize the value these celebrations held, and I wanted to party with friends. My father would tell me, “Come. Enjoy. For one day they will all be gone and you will be glad you did.” He was right. He was so very right. What I realize now, and fortunately before those beautiful people left our world, is that nothing will ever compare to those moments. These were wonderful, lovely souls, gathered together to bring joy to each other and to us.
The home was filled with life. So many smiles, so much happiness in one home, it’s a wonder we didn’t float away.
One by one, however, they disappeared. Most living into their eighties and nineties, they aged and had to move onto bigger and better things.
You see, I’m not one to hold onto things. I am able to let go, to throw away the past and look to the future, to face reality without needing something to remember. Ah, but you see (as the eighties band Naked Eyes sings so clearly), “There’s always something there to remind me…”. Be it a physical reminder or a memory within our minds, we will never forget. Sometimes we simply run out of time from one part of our lives and prepare to move onto another.
Today, the house is empty. The contents will soon be gone. There is no aroma reminiscent of a freshly cooked meal. The music no longer plays.
The time has come.
Cheers to moving upward and onward! Cheers to those beautiful faces who taught me unconditional love from the very beginning! Cheers to their souls which shall never perish and most certainly live within us each and every day! Cheers to laughter and happiness, to fun and celebration, to joy and love! Cheers to the good people, the really good people of the world!
Salud! A la famiglia!!