To Grandmother’s House We Go: Lessons from a Roadtrip

If my grandmother were writing this blog, it may have started like this: My name is Phyllis and I have a lot of stuff in a house that’s way too big. But at the ripe old age of 79, can you blame her? It seems to me the more years you live, the more stuff you accumulate. I can safely say Adam’s and my earthly possessions tripled after a little thing called a wedding registry.

So two weekends ago, my mother, sister and I loaded into the car and drove over the river, through the woods, across Minnesota and to grandmother’s house in Clinton, Iowa we went. After all, when you’re moving from a four story house to a two bedroom condo, you may need to start packing more than the weekend before. Our mission: clean out the basement of my grandmother’s house in preparation for the big move that was still a year and a few months away.

Along the journey to Iowa, the cleansing of the basement, the trip to the dump and the return ride to Fargo Moorhead, I learned a few lessons on the ladies’ Iowa adventure.

Sometimes history is right under your nose. Of the many discoveries in the basement of my grandmother’s house were two huge trunks that belonged to my great grandmother. Our first job was to explore the treasures that awaited us. I must admit, after having watched National Treasure a few too many times, I was ready for some serious stash.

The trunks in the basement

But while what we found may not have been worth millions, the family history was priceless. Among the occupants of the trunks included my great grandmother’s wedding dress, a lock of hair from her first haircut in 1924 (when she was 24 I might add) and my great grandfather’s diplomas from jr. high all the way through his doctorate in philosophy.

Sometimes you just don’t need to keep some stuff. In case you hadn’t figured out from my opening comments, we had to sort through a lot of stuff. In total, during two days of cleaning, we brought two full cars to the local dump. Included were a handmade dog kennel for a dog that was alive when my mom was 19 (the same age my youngest brother is now), containers of voided checks from 1991, and two huge garbage bags of BOWS. That’s right, the big shiny kind that you use to wrap gifts. Oh, and in case you needed some snippets of used wrapping paper, those were there too. In my grandmother’s defense, they were saved by HER mother.

Another lesson learned was to always clean out your cupboards. I don’t care what my uncle says, soup that expired in 2003 is not good. Ever.

Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words. While digging through the trunks and my mom’s old toys was fun, I think my favorite part of the entire trip was the night we went through old pictures. I saw pictures of my grandmother as a baby and photos of the day she got married. I watched my mom and her siblings grow up through film and reminisced with my sister when we found photos of us as children. We even found some funny ones, like when we showed my cousin a picture of her mother in a bikini. I can still hear her saying that her eyes are burning.

The children of the 70s - my mom and her siblings in Pakistan

No matter what treasures we found in the basesment or the apartment, looking through old photos was my most cherished memory from this trip. I saw a glimpse of my grandmother and mother when they were young women like me, attempting to make their ways in the world. It would have been an honor to have known them then, just as it is an honor to know them now.

Since I shared one of my mother's childhood, I guess I'll do one of mine too. Who is the one on the left?

Sometimes you just need to stop and smell the … baseball park. I love my dad and I love my husband, but often when they travel they choose to feel the highway beneath their wheels and make it from point A to point B as quickly as possible. I, on the other hand, take the long way, stopping at any attraction along the side of the road that catches my fancy.

After all, I never would have seen the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown or Salem Sue, the giant holstein cow on the way back from Medora if I hadn’t begged, pleaded and puppy dog eyed my husband into pulling over.
Luckily, my mother and my sister are the same way. So on the way down, we stopped to take pictures from the bluffs in Iowa and pulled over to admire the beautiful sunset. It may have taken us 12 hours instead of 9 to get to my grandmother’s, but it was worth it.

You don't get views like this in Fargo Moorhead

The fun continued on the way home when we ended up driving through Dryersville, IA, home of The Field of Dreams movie site. Ten minutes and a detour through town later, we found ourselves standing on the baseball field, whispering “Build it and they will come” and running through corn.

Field of Dreams movie site

The moral? Life’s too short. So take in the world around you. Whether it’s an abnormally large animal on the side of the highway or a baseball field just on the other side of heaven, you never know what memories you’ll make. Or what husband, father or guy friend you’ll make jealous along the way.

One thought on “To Grandmother’s House We Go: Lessons from a Roadtrip

  1. I love this post!! Your Grandma is a hoot, I bet it was a lot of fun helping her clean house! Also you didn’t post anything about Lewis and Clark!?

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