My Grandmother's House
My grandmother's house in comparison was less regal in exterior. In fact, upon reflection, it adequately represented the South San Antonio community in which it resided. This is no bad word upon my grandmother. The interior of the building is what has become special upon deeper reflection. Though I spent time with him there, I do not recall living with my grandfather. Only one picture remains in my mind to remind me of my namesake Moises. “Mo” seems to be what he went by when he owned a bar. At least that’s what the women called him as I am lead to believe. Most of the stories about him are mythology to me. My memory of the house extends into time there after his passing. The floor plan of this house I remember more vividly then anything in my childhood.
This South portion of San Antonio had two ice houses of the sort that ran parallel to each other but perpendicular to my grandmother's street. I recall both, but only enough to know they existed. Later visits were scarce and my time there consisted at an age in which my parents did not permit me to walk around so freely. The neighbor’s house across the street once obtained some miraculous divination of the Virgin Mary and people lined up down the road for hours to see it. I was not raised Catholic, but there are deep ravines of positive thoughts their direction because of my time in San Antonio. Certainly no little child of my less than adequate concerns for religion could have discerned the value of the Roman Catholic Church. And yet, I sit quietly and must fight the urge to reflect on family and that house when I cross myself.
The driveway off of the street was only mildly elevated. The chain link fence that faced out to the street and encompassed the property often had to have its gates open for us to drive into (at least that is what I remember upon being old enough to open the gate). A hole in the cement for a long thin piece of metal to go down into the ground and stabilize the fence. The driveway was not very long. The short drive alongside the house led to a shed and "back house." I believe, upon childhood reflection, that an individual lived in the extra house though I could not ever tell you who the individual might have been. As nearly a man, I recall going back into the shed looking for something. My uncle led me into the rooms and I saw for only the first time portions of the property that had escaped me as a child. The room was empty and struck me as a sterile place.
The walls of the garage/shed were littered with tools and spare parts for everything you could ever not need as a child. I remember the chemicals being on the top most shelf. Otherwise, the content was irrelevant to my hands. Whether they were valuable to an adult was unbeknownst to me and to this day escapes me.
The shed/garage opened up to a back yard that was truly the escapism of my childhood. With a plant overgrowth across the back chain-link fence, there was a surprisingly firm sense of isolationism despite the clear view into the side neighbors' yards. One of these neighbors had a dog that I routinely raced down the yard. If I recall winning it must have been because the dog became distracted by a sibling or cousin for there was no world in which my thin and short legs could have accomplished the feat. The race would have led me past a huge pecan tree that I recall feeding from freely on many occasions. I still recognize the tools for cracking pecans. And I enjoy eating them to this day. The surplus of pecans was greater than the house and were often collected for later consumption. The end of the race was the overgrown back fence which was precipitated by an old steel swing set.
The old set probably hurt more people than was legally allowed. It was joy. Though in my later days I did recognize it as an eyesore. But the eyes of children are acclimated and attune for danger and the gracious Lord saw fit that none but my sister were seriously injured. She got injured a number of times on the property so I gather the swing set was not truly to blame. In fact, her injuries are the only injuries that I vividly recall. Instead, I remember much jumping and climbing. There was much running and hurling oneself around the elements of the set. I distinctly remember hitting balls of the smaller sort over the back fence growth. They were lost for eternity and for all I know they continue to lie in the dirt of the neighbor's yard.
The inside of the house was more or less the same to a child. It was a labyrinth of rooms and dusty objects that awaited re-acquaintance. I recall upon visiting after my grandmother's death that the house remained much the same but smaller and dustier. The main back yard entry still retained the cement etching in the step. Though I could never recall with detail, I know that the step had dates etched into them. Dates that would likely be relevant and memorable to my family.
The door entered into a living room of sorts. There was a time when it had carpet. And there was a time when it was bare cement. And there was a time with the cement colored (so I recall). The TV resided in the room along with a couple configurations of seating. A bathroom was in the back left by some storage shelves. I recall the bathroom window overlooking the driveway. My memories looking out the bathroom window are probably memories of the living room window but I can't discern why I associate them with the bathroom. It is in this living room that I watched Batman, X-Men, the Spurs, Pistons, and Bulls. I do not remember much of this room except the television. I remember some toys. And I remember wearing a Miami Dolphin jacket that was a hand me down from my cousin.
The other memory remains one of the most vivid in my life — buttered toast with cinnamon. I do not recall who made this snack. Perhaps it was just my own working. I do know that at some point there was no actual toasting involved. Just bread. Butter. And Cinnamon. I have not eaten this snack in over two decades, but it remains the clearest and emphatic of my food memories. The other involves grape soda and vanilla yogurt. I do not recall the time period of those memories but I will set them aside for my move to Austin.
This memory of cinnamon and butter is etched into my mind and will remain there. Even thinking of it now I crave the delicate and cheap snack. But not in the sense of actually wanting to eat it. A tear wells instead over the simplicity of such an event and food leaving such a strong and formidable mark in the towering alcove of my mind. For all that my mind can remember of the good and the bad, there is butter and cinnamon. A child's treat forever marking an entire existence.