There are pieces of our childhood that get pushed to the recesses of our minds -- they never really go away. Sometimes we can take them out and dust them off and decades later, they still make us smile.
That was the case tonight as I logged a little time at my late great uncle's house.
The furnace had a hiccup a few weeks ago, spurring a water issue in the now vacant and for sale house. We've been trying to keep an eye on it to make sure there isn't a repeat or any new problems, especially during the recent cold snap. (Which, mercifully ended today when we finally reached freezing again!)
I think I isolated a minor water issue (involving the washer hook-up) and while I scoured the shelves for things to mop up some puddled water with, I was amazed at all the things that came flooding back.
My uncle never bought one of anything. This was still evidenced by the 10 (yes, TEN) cans of Bon Ami on a nearby shelf, the jumbo pack of Charmin and the three packages of Reynolds cooking bags that were just a few feet away. In their previous home, where I'd spent a good deal of my childhood, Uncle Bill had transformed what was once a small office into a pantry. It was ALWAYS well-stocked. I remember the wonder of being surrounded by a tiny grocery store! (I was their faux grandchild for seven years before they got one of their own.)
As I waited to see if I had in fact isolated the issue, I spied a semi-open closet door which revealed aged turn-out gear. (He was a long-time volunteer firefighter and a former chief.) I immediately remembered the many times that I had seen my uncle, who was NOT a little man, rumble down a hallway and literally leap into his boots, boots nearly as tall as I was at the time, before slipping into his turn-out gear as he ran for the door.
I checked again to confirm that I'd isolated the problem by putting the hook-ups into a bucket, swabbed the floor one more time and waited for the furnace to cycle. (Just to be sure.)
My aunt, who died a decade ago, was an avid photographer. As I rounded a corner, I saw a camera bag sitting on a shelf. Next to that, a tiny notepad, clad in a leather case, opposite an American Express branded calendar -- for 1968. In the next room, near the stairs, I passed a stack of photo albums. I couldn't help myself -- I picked one up and thumbed through.
My aunt had loved her photos so. And, fresh off a weekend devoted to preserving pictures, I grieved for her. I smiled through teary eyes as I flipped past pictures of my cousins in their teen years (now in their 30s) and even one of a much younger me, sitting next to the mother, at my aunt and uncle's 45th wedding celebration. (My aunt had been quite ill that year and it was speculated that might be their last. She fooled 'em though and lived another six years.)
I returned the album to its stack as the furnace went through its motions. I took the stairs slowly. As I reached the top and stood in the entrance of the sunroom where I would pass through to leave, I think I half expected to catch Uncle Bill napping in his leather lounger.
Good night Auntie N. Good night Uncle Bill.