When I was younger, one of my favorite things to do was go to my VaVa's (grandmother's) house. It has been years since I've been there, to that pink house, lined with pink roses on Escalona Drive, and even though I will never hear, that distinctive door bell ring again, I can still remember that low toned "ding dong" that echoed throughout that house and the memories that it held inside.
I remember playing with the steel heater near the front door, the old stuffed animals she kept in the closet, and the sight of the decorative living room ceiling with the large turquoise couch, the matching chairs, and the pink rocker, and the easy chair, that my VaVa would sit in, the fireplace, with my father's military army picture, behind my Uncle Johnny's, and my aunt's graduation pictures from college sitting on top of the mantle. The console T.V. and the large ocean oil painting my Tia Edalina had painted above the couch. The dining room, decorated by various works of art in crayon by the cousins, was adjacent with the kitchen, with the pull out wood board that VaVa would knead her sweet bread on, and that red plastic cookie jar that was always filled of those Stella Dora cookies. I also remember seeing those white plastic canisters from Linda Vista market with the liver. VaVa Costa loved cookies and liver and onions.
The small hallway of the house would lead to my grandmother's bedroom, the pink and blue tiled bathroom, the bigger room with the twin beds that used to be my aunt's room, and the room in the back that Uncle Johnny slept in that was usually kept shut. I remember walking into my grandmother's room which was always immaculately kept. Her dresser was always filled and decorated with various perfume bottles that never looked like they were ever opened, along little jewelry box trinkets. This image has always been with me, and my bedroom dresser today looks a lot like hers, and yes I still have those same perfume bottles of emeraud.
The hallway that lead to the bedrooms had a little shelf of various knickknacks, and below it was a black phone on a little table and sit bench. Vava's phone was a party line phone, and sometimes, I would pick up the phone and hear the neighbors speaking to one another. They would hear the phone click and sometimes say, "Oh, that must be one of the Costa grandchildren on the other line…" I would quickly hang up afterwards, but sometimes they wouldn't hear the click, and sit there and I would hear about sale at the market or the dinner party someone was throwing, and try not to laugh.
My favorite room however, was the twin bedroom room for it was filled of what I thought was lost treasure. The room had an old fashioned Singer sewing machine in the corner of the room, and always a baby crib at the corner for the baby cousins that would visit. The closet was filled of my aunt's old Catholic High School year books-which were interesting to look at. Everyone looked so much older, and all the teachers were very stern looking nuns. There were also boxes and boxes of black and white portraits pictures of long lost relatives wearing funny hats, and my aunt's old hoop 1950 hoop skirts. I could spend hours looking through that closet. The twin room was almost as interesting as the garage.
The garage was another place I would to look and explore; filled with rusty old tools that were left untouched for years since the passing of my VaVo (grandfather) who I never met. I would sometimes imagine, when playing there, that he was there, as I touched his old tools, and looked into his old steel tool boxes. I would clang and make noise to pretend to play "mechanic" with big, old wrenches. The neighbor across the street rented some of the space and stored boxes in it, which included boxes of old Playboy magazines. How scandalous that was! Who knew the dad across the street that we saw in church every Sunday read and looked at that. Interesting. I don't think he thought we Costa grandchildren would find it, but it was discovered by most of us-of course we never dared to tell anyone. It did leave us to wonder if his wife knew. How scandalous. I don't think VaVa Costa knew. She would not have approved!
My grandmother's backyard was filled with bushes of hydrangea flowers, that grew along the entire fence line, lawn and on the other side there was a vine that sometimes produced the most sweetest of black grapes. Her next door neighbor had an instructional swimming pool, and I would often look through the holes of the fence to see the whimsical float toys surrounding the pool, and the smell of the chlorine sifted through.
The most interesting part of the backyard however was the door that lead to underneath the house. There was enough crawl space there to walk around, and that is where my VaVa, who loved to garden, kept some of her garden tools, along with other boxes of books. It was also another storage area, and that is where my parents kept my brother Edwin's car. It was one of those cars you could actually could sit in and kick with your feet---like a Fred Flintstone car. I never dared to go near it not because I thought it was haunted or covered with spider webs, but more because it was too special. I would look at it only from a distance, and try to envision a brother I only knew from old black and white photographs, drive it down the sidewalk.
After weekend dinners, which usually included ham and Lawrence Welk T.V. programs, I remember pleading with my parents to spend the night. If my VaVa was feeling well, they would always say yes. They would pick me up the next morning, after a breakfast of eggs and bacon. I remember saying goodbye to them as they drove away at the window above the steel heater. I would later settle into one of the twin beds, and after a goodnight kiss from my VaVa I would close my eyes and listen to her pray on her rosary in Portuguese. Hearing VaVa's repetitive prayers coming out of her bedroom, down the hallway gave me comfort and always lulled me quickly to sleep.
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