Home : The Blue Room and Grandma’s Hands – D(ed) Reckonings – Medium

A story of ups and downs and ingredients beneath the basement stairs.

Grandma’s hands.

When I think of home, I think of the Blue Room and Grandma’s hands.

Stiff bundles of swollen knuckles.

Generous extremities that gifted me — 28, broke, and too proud to ask — a roll of twenty-dollar bills to buy gas.

Guides that taught me how to make spaghetti sauce, yanked my shirt to kick an angry teenager out of her house.

Today, Grandma’s hands welcome me home.

It’s been a couple years since I visited. A couple years of ups and downs.

Down inches, up wrinkles. Down the stairs, up the stairs; the washer and dryer are in the basement. Down sugar and salt, up aches and pains.

It’s Grandma’s hands that hurt most.

Grandma cries. Some days she feels like she’s waiting to die.

Grandma asks for help. The asking always starts the same: “Eddie…”

I chop onions.

I peel potatoes.

I pull up the heavy Prudential cooking pots Grandma bought in the 60s. Grandma tells the story: A door-to-door salesman told her they were made with the titanium stripped from military airplanes. She went on a payment plan.

Those pots, she says, are the best things she ever bought.

Grandma needs vegetable oil. There’s a jug in the Blue Room.

The Blue Room is beneath the basement stairs.

It’s called the Blue Room because the walls and shelves are painted blue. It’s a place of canned vegetables, paper towel rolls, folding chairs for family parties that don’t happen here anymore. A place where, as a boy in pajamas, I hid in the blueness, ripped open and overturned a bag of flour. Where I opened boxes of Jell-O, red and orange and blue, puffed powder into the air.

The Blue Room turned to a cloud, and in it floated pumpkin pie filing, sauerkraut and corn — the subterranean hideaway of a sweet-toothed Jolly Green Giant.

The Blue Room is where I got lost in the ingredients like Grandma and her hands.

The Blue Room, where Grandma plucked what she needed from the shelves, was the antecedent of a million meanings for blue, an encounter long before she taught me that wisdom and sadness eventually turned the same color.

When I think of coming home and leaving home and the search to find a new home, I think about the Blue Room and Grandma’s hands

Grandma’s hands — the scars of a baker, a boxer, a gas station manager, and a mother.

Pickers of pennies. A prayer on Sunday mornings.

A goodbye on the casket of a dead son. A greeting beneath the armpits of an eight-pound granddaughter.

To step inside the Blue Room and spend time with the ingredients that feed the house is to learn how to make yourself full.

The lesson in Grandma’s hands: Years of ups and downs, aches and pains, salt and sugar, teach us how to build a home.


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