Backyard, Eastern view.My Aunt Mary and her husband built this house sometime around the time I was born, maybe a little before or after, but regardless, it definitely reflects the 1970s. The colors, the decor, so much about it symbolizes the time. I've always loved the house because there is so much to explore, even though I knew to watch my step because my aunt was wary of having a kid mess around with her dream home. The house was huge by 1970s standards - big enough to need an intercom, which impressed a little kid tremendously, as did the pool house, which is not much smaller than the first house Kevin and I owned. There is gate on the driveway with another intercom. When I visited in my 20s, Mary was expecting me, but that didn't reassure her enough. I kept yelling, "IT"S KIM-BER-LY!" into the intercom and she'd say, "Who?" over and over again. This was before cell phones and I was sure I would get stuck having to drive into town to call my mom to ask her to call Aunt Mary. Mary finally gave up and opened the gate, but stayed locked in her fortress until she saw me get out of the car.
When I was small, I always knew never, EVER to go into the master bedroom. I was to stay out of the living room leading into the master suite for good measure, too. As an adult, I've only gone into Aunt Mary's room a few times, once even to sleep there during an uncomfortable night because even though I'm trusted as old enough to not touch or break anything, it still feels forbidden.
So many of our family vacations were spent making the hours long drive down south to stay at Aunt Mary's. I almost always slept in the "twin bed room" with its animal print bedspreads and a giant closet full of old board games. In most rooms, the drapes are electronically controlled.
One guest bathroom has a sun light to warm you up after a shower. Like the other bathrooms, it also has velvety wall paper and carpet.
Mary always had soda, although usually RC and not a major name brand. This is the same house where as a teenager I pointed out that Aunt Mary had an empty salad dressing bottle in the refrigerator. She grabbed it from my hand and proved it wasn't empty by adding a little water to the mostly cleaned out bottle. She shook the bottle, getting the last bits of Thousand Island dressing that had been clinging to the sides of the bottle and said, "Then you mix it up and you have dressing!" No dressing is better than highly diluted dressing. Like my nonnie did, Mary freezes everything. Even scraps can be frozen for the dogs to eat later. Growing up poor taught them to waste nothing. The mansion didn't change that for Mary.
We were there in August, back to Aunt Mary's house for the first time in years. As I showed Clover the trails, the fountains and the pool, suddenly it occurred to me that this could be one of my last times there. Aunt Mary turns 90 soon and the house is big and lonely. It's not clear that any of the family will take it over, which is sad. The house has so much character and family history in it, but it's hard to saddle that on the next generation.
My nonnie was Mary's older sister, so every time I think of the house, of course I see my nonnie. Both Mary and nonnie wearing house coats while cooking away, only stopping to watch their story. (Mary had a TV in the kitchen! Back when TVs were chunky and took up a lot of space.) We swam in the oppressive Central Valley heat, while being watched over by German Shepards, many of whom were named Sheba. We joke that Aunt Mary's currently on Sheba No. 8. One of my earliest memories is when Sheba (No. 1? No. 2?) ate my Raggedy Ann doll. The big dogs scared me slightly, but it was nothing like the fright that Tiger put in me. Tiger was Mary's little white poodle. He was a terror. Any time I set out to walk down the long, long corridor to my room in the back of the house, my heart would pound with fear. I would try to tiptoe quietly away from the family room and kitchen where Tiger would patrol, but as soon as I'd hear Tiger's nails on the stone flooring, I'd run as fast as I could. A few times Tiger nipped me in the butt, but mostly he gave up once I got to the back hallway. I did not mourn Tiger's passing.