Over the River and Through the Woods

This morning, I dreamed of returning to my grandmother’s house.

I walked through the door in wonder, and my feet slowly echoed a dark tread through memories. Everything was browns and shadows. The walls and floors were like stage walls -fa├žades of what her house really had been.

I sought her lookout living room. This had been hers: from the praying Harvesters guarding either side of her music cabinet to Where’s Waldo? books hidden near the wall by the glass doors leading onto her narrow, darkwood deck. We always felt like kings overseeing her vast backyard, since her rambler-castle opened up to two floors in the back.

Now this room was as empty and nondescript as an uninhabited paper shack. There were no signs of any decorations, and only my imagination furnished it.

Eagerly, I turned to the stairs that steeply dropped from one side of the living room. I had always loved these narrow, turning steps into the dark, unfinished lower level. Down there had been a cement floor carpeted with fraying rugs; an old, metal wood-burning stove she might light; paintings of Victorian figures looking disapproving at us from shadows; antique toys to play with; a huge stuffed couch; a bar we played pretend at; and the hallway to her food storage, computer, bedroom, and art studio.

Even in life the basement was a dim, dusty, disused area. Now, not even the stairs were there. I looked over the empty gap and saw an incomplete staircase of books. How would I get down and salvage what I could?

The floor gave way beneath me, in an impossible tilt of the entire slab, and I traveled to the lower level on a falling teeter-totter of living room.

I walked around this angled now-ceiling to look around. My mind told me I was downstairs, but it was one, closed-off room. There were secrets stored behind a wall, as all basements appear in my dreams; but, there also was an enormous, dirty cardboard box with a torn-open top to examine. The book staircase was a stage prop of shiny-bound classics purchased only for looks that would never be read.

Inside the box, though, I found mounds of literature that were her. Antique Dick and Jane and dusty A Child’s Garden of Verses sat piled on Old Hat, New Hat and hundreds of unnamed children’s classics, properly faded and aged and loved. Scattered atop this scattered library was a large collection of pages, like a broken-binding calendar or matte-sheet magazine, covered in her writing and illustrations. She had been an artist.

I was in a state of near-waking, and told myself to get these things out, somehow, and get them to my mother. My mother coveted her mother’s things, especially after the house, furniture, and artwork had never resurfaced since her death.

This was a physical impossibility, however; as I saw the enormity of the cardboard box, tested the weight of the books, and wondered at the boxed-in state of the basement itself. The dream slipped away, leaving only memory dust and frustration.

I awoke determined to somehow get my grandmother’s belongings from some hidden location I must have been inspired to seek. Only, it really is all gone. The house has been sold. And even the living model of my imagination has turned to facsimile.