Sunday, November 13, 2011


In Richmond this weekend-- I always sleep so well here.  I think it's a combination of being with BikerDude (it's hard to sleep alone when you're used to having someone else share the bed), a comfortable mattress, being away from the usual home stresses and the quiet house.  There's something familiar about this house, even though it's clearly new, and I think it has to do with the fact that it was built in the same era as my Grandmother's house.

That said,  I had the most vivid dream last night.  I was back in Grandma's house, showing it to a young couple who were considering purchasing it, so I was walking them through.  As is true in most dreams, not everything we walked through was actually part of Grandma's house, but so many significant details were.

I was first struck by the smell.  Grandma's house had lovely, old heart of pine floors throughout, so there was always a faint, pleasant aroma of pine mixed with whatever furniture polish/cleaner she was using at the time-- slightly soapy, clean and... warm.   Grandma's house was usually warm.  No air conditioning, but a furnace that fueled two ENORMOUS steam radiators-- one in the living room, right inside the front door and one in the kitchen.  Grandma loved color, so they were painted to match the decor:  Avocado green in the living room and bright orange (yes, orange!) in the kitchen.  The house was small-- only four rooms plus the bathroom-- so those two ginormous radiators were plenty to keep things warm! 

The front door included a very old-fashioned heavy, louvered glass storm/screen door.  You twisted a winged knob to open the glass louvers-- all in all a safety nightmare in a number of ways (pointed corners to hit your head on, heavy non-tempered glass either sticking out horizontally presenting a solid, very breakable surface to stick your arm through...).  It was heavy, but very effective!

The closets smelled faintly of cedar and mothballs.  They were deep and dark and had high shelves holding many mysterious boxes.  The back porch was high off the ground as the lot sloped down from the front yard to the back.  One of the posts of the covered porch held a pulley which operated the clothes line.  Waayy out across the back yard, on the edge of the lot between Grandma and her next door neighbors to the right stood a telephone pole-- I recall that somehow the neighbor had finagled having it installed-- and there were accompanying pulleys for both Grandma's and the neighbor's clothes lines attached, so that the laundry hung 20-30' in the air, waving high above the backyards, in the sun and out of the way of Grandma's pride and joy:  Her garden.

Grandma had, over the years, terraced her back yard into a multi-level ornamental garden with raised beds and careful pathways.  She could grow anything and was always fascinated and delighted to try new plants or share her successes with fellow gardeners.  Needless to say, her basement was, essentially, an enormous potting shed with a washer (and, eventually, dryer) stuck in one corner amidst the shelves of pots, vases, gardening implements and whichever rusty lawnmower she was nursing at the moment.  Spending time at Grandma's house usually meant spending some time helping her pull weeds, edge the lawn or sort out and store various bulbs, seedlings or corms.

So the other smell I associate is dirt.  No, not just dirt-- soil.  Grandma knew how to cultivate.  The smell of the cool dirt of the basement (with just a hint of heating oil for the boiler), warm sun on grass and the sweet smell of the butterfly bushes and abelia mixing with the almost petroleum-like smell of the redwood shingles that sided the house-- throw in the smell of rain from the cover of large covered front porch and you have a summer afternoon at Grandma's.

It's amazing how much scent triggers memory-- and how many memories one dream can trigger.