Grandmother’s house was always dark. That’s what I recall anyway. The heavy drapes were always pulled shut which swathed the living room in darkness. The living room became an unmistakable cave when you entered through the front door. Grandmother’s house was always dark, but it also always smelled of blackberry jam. The scent was pungent. It was as if there was a permanent kettle of boiling blackberry jam on the cooker.
Grandmother’s house may have always been dark but it always smelled delicious.
The only time we ever visited that dark house was when The Mother needed her, The Grandmother, to watch The Sisters: Older Sister, Middle Sister, and me The Little Sister. I guess you might say that our visit was more than that, visits, since they were always based on The Mother’s need for a b-r-e-a-k. We were a rambunctious lot of girlie energy and early onset spitefulness. I could tell our numerous visits, didn’t really sit well with Grandmother because, as I recall, Grandmother didn’t really like little children and…we were somewhat little: nine, seven and five. Come to think of it I don’t think Grandmother liked Grandfather very much either, but I’d rather we didn’t get into Grandmother’s proclivities for her disdain of little children and/or humanity in general. Not now.
Actually, there were four of us but I’m hard-pressed to count the Younger Brother at all because he was liked and muchly loved (being the only boy and obviously the heir-apparent to the family name) by everyone in the family even the extended ones except us, The Sisters. I’m pretty sure that was normal behavior for us, Sisters, at our ages but it still wasn’t right, or possibly fair. Most likely, as I recall, Younger Brother was picked on, harassed, badgered, tormented, bullied and made fun of. Constantly. Constantly. I’ve said it twice in a row. I remember constantly. You would probably like to know that The Younger Brother turned out all right in spite of all that menacing from The Sisters. Honestly? I’m surprised.
About that jam. Grandmother did have blackberry vines in her back garden. The Sisters were never allowed to play in Grandmother’s garden. Ever. Instead, we played on the pavement in front of Grandmother’s house…and on the railroad tracks that ran right by her house. The Sisters could only go in to the garden for two reasons: to watch Grandmother walk up and down the cherished berry vine-aisles counting berries (like a general in full dress uniform during inspection) and/or help Grandmother harvest her berry crop that eventually and obviously filled the jam pot that sat on the cooker permanently boiling jam. Or, so it seemed. Funny isn’t it? I don’t recollect ever eating that jam…the finished product…that blackberry jam although I’m sure we all did. Most likely on breakfast toast or in peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Most likely.
As The Little Sister I didn’t get a bedroom or a bed i.e., a proper bed with mattress and soft downy pillow, to sleep in at night during our…visits. The sleeping arrangements were doled-out based upon age. Doled-out isn’t the correct term because it makes it appear Grandmother’s house was a mansion of many bedrooms. It wasn’t. There were two bedrooms: one for Grandmother and Grandfather (which must have held all the family secrets including that jam recipe because The Sisters were never allowed in that room) (ever), and the spare room which was always given to Older Sister and Middle Sister who always argued over which side of the bed, the right or the left, they wanted to sleep on. In my Little Sister mind they should never have argued. Really. Know why? Because my bed room was the entire living room and my bed was two chairs pushed together…seat to seat. It made a nice flat yet soft-upholstered surface on which to make a bed. Of sorts.
This arrangement, my living-room-bed-room-with-two-chairs-pushed-together-seat-to-seat was really all right except, if you remember what I said before…Grandmother’s living room was dark. A cave during the day, and pitch-black scary at night. Was I afraid? Well? Yes. Yes, I was afraid. At the same time, however, it couldn’t have been more perfect even though scary with all the dark furniture looming shadows, and even darker corners where Grandmother kept the night-monsters. I knew she had to have night-monsters. I was sure of it.
Here’s what I really remember: the living room was right next to the dining room, which was right off the kitchen. That’s where the blackberry jam scent kept being reborn in my five-year old mind. It was blackberry jam, after all. Dark with the scent of safe…and secure.