House of Sweet Memories
By Alexandra Cortez
When I was young, maybe five years old, I was small enough to sneak under the grand wooden table in my grandparents’ dining room, waiting for my grandpa to find me during one of our games of hide-and-seek. The table was so high, and I was so small, that I could practically stand under it. It had three large legs for support, each divided into twists of carved wood. My grandpa and I used to play pretend under that table, imagining I was a princess and the legs of the table were the many intricate walls of my castle. That table held some of my earliest memories, though I was too small to see across the top and to the other side.
Even now, that table holds many important things. It holds up our hefty Thanksgiving dinners and our presents around Christmastime; it holds special trinkets I used to store in its upper compartments as a kid; and, most importantly, it holds my childhood memories.
Every inch of my grandparents’ house possesses a memory from my life, and from all the people who have stepped inside. Their house, with the tan brick that makes it look like a gingerbread house during Christmas. Their house, with the worn, textured carpet and an antique stove no one wants to replace, is a point of connection between me and the many lives which have passed through.
A chair in the living room—a brown recliner my grandpa refused to give up for the longest time—stands out in my memory. He loved that chair, not because it was comfortable, but because he had rocked his grandchildren to sleep in it. I learned to read in that recliner, and I will never forget discovering my love of words with my grandpa, Popo, by my side.
I grew up in that one-story house. I spent my weekdays there, reading fairytale books with my sister, making paper snowflakes to decorate around the house, or studying for high school exams. I used to run around with my cousins, pointing at every heirloom and wondering what kinds of stories each of them had to tell. “What’s this?” we would ask, holding a ceramic music box filled with jewelry, or examining a rock-band poster from our fathers’ youth.
My dad and his brothers spent decades in that house as well. Their own childhood is visible throughout the halls, preserved by pictures from every stage of their lives. In some, my dad grins candidly as he inspects an old-fashioned car with his brothers, and in others, he stands proudly with my mom at his side, dressed in warm attire for Christmastime.
During the holidays, everyone gathers to cherish another year gone by in my grandparents’ house. We sing Christmas carols at the table, the same songs my parents used to sing with their church group when they were my age. We cook food, Welita’s cherished and secret carrot cake recipe that she has perfected in the kitchen for over fifty years; the recipe which takes days to make, even with all of us helping, and is an heirloom on its own, only passed down to members of the family. We sit around the fireplace and give thanks for our time together. There have been moments when our lives seemed bleak, during a cousin’s hospital visits or the news of Welita’s cancer, but this house was always there for us to cherish. My grandparents have always been there, to comfort and raise us with care.
The house is not only a place of connection for the family, but for friends as well. Every time I meet one of my dad’s childhood classmates, they reminisce about the day they stayed over all evening while stranded in a storm or about the wonders of Welita’s food. “Does she still make her famous arroz con pollo?” they ask, then we laugh and recall the magical smells of chicken and rice that have always permeated the kitchen. During every gathering, Welita makes an extra plate of food to give to the neighbors. Every time I see my family in that house, we recall funny stories from the past year, tales of camping trips or barbeque mishaps, or that time when a chicken flew in through my grandparents’ chimney. Together, we laugh and cry in that house, and we pray for each other and the coming years.
Every room holds a multitude of memories from the past. So many people have been raised there, and they remain connected to it. Their house is a place of love and community for the friends and family that constantly flow in and out of our circle. And in these uncertain times, we want nothing more than to cherish each other’s embraces in that house once again.