To me, home is our ancestral house ‘Red Rose’ in Junction City, Louisiana in which grandmother Emma lives. A visit to it is like stepping into another world. The garden is full of my favorite roses. My own room stocked with clothes purchased by grandmother. Most of the family photographs in the living room are of me in various stages of growth. Meals comprised all my favorite dishes. For entertainment I can choose from my favorite film star’s DVDs or interact with friends. After dinner I enjoy hearing grandmother’s recollection of events during her past life. Grandmother still tucks me into bed like a little child. I treasure such visits to grandmother’s house and would not change them for anything.
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There is no specific definition of ‘home.’ To some it is a place where a social unit of people (usually a man, his wife and their children) resides. To others it is a place of origin (for example a German man living in the U.S considers his home as the one in which he grew up in Munich). To yet some others (like me) it is a place of comfort different from the temporary austere houses one has to live in. I live in the town of XYZ. I consider the house in which I live with my parents as my residence (not home). This is because we have lived our present residence, like many others, on a temporary basis due to the nature of my father’s job (he is an Army Lieutenant) that involves regular transfers to different cities throughout the United States. To me, my real home is our ancestral house in the little town of Junction City in Louisiana that belongs to my father’s family (he is the only sibling of my grandparents). Although my grandfather passed away several years ago, my grandmother named Emma still resides in that house which is named ‘Red Rose.’ The highlight of my childhood and teenage years has been the periodic visits to my grandmother’s house. Each visit spans between 7 to 10 days.
A visit to my grandmother’s house is like stepping into another world. The change begins as I unlatch the gate and walk up to the front door. The neatly kept garden predominantly full of rose plants provides a heady visual and olfactory pleasure – a feeling greatly exacerbated by the fact that the rose has always been my favorite flower (I once overheard my father telling my mother that my grandmother not only insisted on growing roses in her garden ever since she discovered my fascination with them since my childhood, but she also honored my flower choice by changing the name of the house from the previous ‘The Laurels’ to ‘Red Rose’).
After being effusively greeted by my grandmother (she is a large stout person with an ever present smile on her face, always bustling with energy and good cheer) I take up my sparse luggage to the first floor where I have my own special room. As usual, it is spic and span with cool breeze wafting in from the large windows framed with frilly curtains. My luggage is sparse because the two large wardrobes in the room already contain a large assortment of bathrobes, jeans, shirts, sweaters, underwear and shoes – courtesy of my grandmother who disregards my protests and goes on buying these items (“It’s easy to buy these modern items,” she beams, “because all I have to know are your sizes!”) for me.
I come down into the living room and take a slow walk around it, revising my memories of our family history. While there are many photographs of my grandparents during their younger days, as well as my parents after marriage, most of the photographs on the walls feature me in various stages of growth. A space has been conspicuously left in the middle of my photographs, reserved, my grandmother says with a huge smile, for my wedding photograph.
When it comes to cooking, grandmother is a class by herself. Her dishes are simply mouth-wateringly wonderful. Grumbling about how thin I’d become since she last saw me (in fact I gained 2 kg during that time!), she brings out steaming platter after platter of my favorite food (and she knows all of them!). Breakfast is either the traditional dish of bacon, ham and eggs, or sautéed mushrooms accompanied by her home baked croissants. Lunch is usually chicken salad with creamy mashed cauliflower. For dinner there are rich, juicy steaks cooked to perfection with heaps of mashed potatoes. Dessert is a toss up between apple pie, chocolate cake and strawberry ice cream.
Although I am usually an avid movie theatre fan, I hardly ever watch movies in the three theatres of Junction City town. I prefer to watch DVDs at home. From past experience I know that grandmother keeps track of my favorite movies and actors, so I’m not surprised to find a large selection of movies featuring my favorite actor Brad Pitt. Grandmother also takes care to call up a few of my friends who still remain in Junction City or are there on holiday (considering that Junction City is a small town with a population of less than 1,000, opportunities are relatively less and most people, like my parents and myself, have travelled to larger cities in the country), so I do not lack company of people of my own age to interact with during evenings.
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After dinner, grandmother and I have a cozy chat. We exchange tales of all that happened since we saw each other last (first hand interaction of what both of us already know via telephone conversations exchanged between my grandmother and parents). I then cajole her into relating stories of the past. I love to hear her recalling tales of her past life with grandfather and my dad. Many anecdotes particularly thrill me so much that I entreat her to repeat them. One such anecdote involved my grandfather, then in an understandably inebriated state, weaving past the room where his newly married bride was waiting on their wedding night and wrongly blundering into the room of the maid (who was undressing at that time) only to be rewarded with a loud stream of shocked protest.
When it’s time to go to bed, grandmother invariably tucks me in as though I’m still a young child, softly saying the same words I heard so many times: “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” before turning off the light and closing the door softly.
All my visits to my grandmother’s house follow this same pattern. For me, it represents a tradition that I would not change for all the gold in Fort Knox. This is because I not only value my real home much more than all the yellow metal in that Fort, but I treasure its occupant much more than that.