I enter through the back door and everything I encounter comes rushing in through the senses of my memory. The red tool cabinet in the corner. The lace curtains. The flower box on the other side of the pane of the porch window.
I find my grandmother at the blue linoleum-covered table of the chrome suite in the ghost kitchen of her old house. No kidding, they bulldozed this building less than a week after she died, though she hadn’t lived in it herself for more than fifteen years.
On a small plate in front of her, a slice of Gennoe’s bread, toasted dark brown. Her hands are knotted at the knuckles with arthritis, veins and tendons and ridges of loose skin form contours that leave shadows in the oblique light coming in from the window behind her. She passes the tip of each thumb lightly back and forth across the tips of the other fingers of that hand. Little imaginary crumbs of brown sprinkle back to the plate, volcanic ash that drowned Pompeii in its own stilted breath. I want to ask my grandmother what she knows about the process that turned her to stone this way in my memory, preserved her strong as the case-hardened tools in the red-painted cabinet in the porch.
“The tools went to your father,” she says in reply. “That chair in there,” she points to the Morris rocker that I know sits before the bookshelf in my own living room. “That’s yours. Perhaps you’ll think of me when you sit in it.”
I put my hands on the dark varnished armrests, lean forward, shift my weight onto my feet, and stand up in my own living room.