When I was a boy, we lived in the country. That is, we lived five miles from the nearest town (Canby) and 25 miles from the nearest city (Portland). We were surrounded by farmland. Life was quiet. Pastoral. Bucolic.
The road we lived on was especially quiet, with very little traffic. Even from a young age — five or six, I think — I was allowed to walk the quarter-mile to visit my grandparents. (My father's parents lived “next door” to us, but next door was across a large field.)
Visiting grandma and grandpa was fun. As quiet as life in the country was, life at their house was even quieter. There was a stillness in their place unlike anything I've experienced since. Their home seemed stuck in time.
Part of this stuckness stemmed from the things they owned.
They lived in a little white farmhouse built in 1920. My grandparents moved there in 1943 — two years before my father was born — then remodeled the place. Sort of. (Like all Roths, they left the job undone — for more than forty years!)
During the 1970s, when I was young, they still owned and used many of the things they'd purchased when they moved in.
- They still had a big, white Kelvinator refrigerator, for instance, with a moving door handle and hardly any space inside. They called it the “icebox”.
- They listened to hymns (sometimes) and radio sermons (daily) on an imposing wooden console “hi-fi” system as big as a couch.
- They owned a long pink-ish, purple-ish “davenport” with scratchy, well-worn fabric on which grandpa would nap every afternoon after “dinner” (which was lunch).
- They used a black bakelite rotary telephone on a party line.
My grandparents themselves were very much like the things they owned. They were old. (They were in their seventies when I knew them.) They were calm. They moved slowly during the day, and even more slowly at night. One of my fondest memories is sitting with them in the evening, watching as they sipped “sanka” and played Scrabble while a fire roared in the nearby woodstove.
For children, time always moves more slowly, but it seemed to me that nothing every changed in my grandparents' world. Their home was frozen in time. It was stuck. It was still. It was silent.
It was comforting, and I liked it. [Read more…]