On my first morning back in America, my grandma cooked me poached eggs and an English muffin and they tasted exactly like they did when I was eight. Only difference was that she also made some for my husband and I wasn’t eight but thirty.
In addition to the eggs, there are a lot of things in my grandmother’s house that haven’t changed since she and my grandfather bought it in 1987. The soft pink and off-white contact paper in the cupboards; the wooden elephant toothpick-holder on the stove; the picture of my grandfather – the man who made sure she never had to worry about money, but who was also a royal pain in her ass – that picture has never moved from the side of her bed and I’m always glad to see it sitting there.
But none of this should be a surprise to anyone. Isn’t this how grandparents’ houses should be? You don’t want your grandma living in some new apartment, so freshly built it still smells like paint and the yards don’t have landscaping yet. It’s not natural. I don’t know why.
But now my grandma and I go through all the things in this unchanged house. It’s not like we don’t know why we are going through all her stuff, making neat piles: keep, Goodwill, trash. We agree that it’s good to “get things in order.” She wants to, but also doesn’t. I want to, but also don’t. We like it, but we also sigh and say, “So much stuff it makes me tired!”
So even as we dismantle stacks of old dishes and sort through boxes of birthday cards from twenty years ago, I want it all to stay the same. I like that her house is like her: nearly unchanged since my birth. But then I realize, it’s not really the house that I like best. It’s her. Her face is like a small chant: I’m still here, I'm still here, just as you remember. You go places and see all that is new, but don’t worry I’m still here if you need some poached eggs.
So then it isn’t too hard to sort through all the stuff and say goodbye to things left in the hands of a stranger at the Goodwill. Because I get to sit and listen to stories, some new and some not, and if I really need it, there will be poached eggs and an English muffin.