Dre Writes | Grandma's Sunroom

Being in grandma’s sunroom has always been cathartic for me. At an early age, it was this nearly forbidden place she entered each morning, drawing the curtains and watering the vast array of plants with limbs encasing the entire room. My brother almost got in trouble for knocking over grandma’s plants in there one day, but of course, I took the blame. We'd both learn that day that grandma did not tolerate any "horse play" in that sunroom, and her swift punishment would be the teacher. Those lessons, thankfully, were few and far-in-between. I adored my grandmother and wouldn't dare do anything to fall from her grace-- or lose access to that majestic sunroom.


Late at night, grandma would seek solace in that room, pulling the chair from under her sewing machine to create something new and beautiful with her hands, humming along to some unknown song as she transformed linens and lace as she pat her foot on the pedal. I was as quiet as can be, watching from the kitchen entrance, as grandma drifted off into her own world. 

I snuck away to the sunroom in the afternoons while my aunt was in class, thumbing through her English textbooks and records scattered by grandma’s desk. It wasn’t long before I was sitting at the desk completing assignments, too. Grandma never scolded me. I just heard her tell someone on the phone that I was so smart, I was doing Teeny Gal’s (as she affectionately called my aunt) homework. This affirmed me, taking to writing at that desk every chance I got. 

Before long, some of the plants were replaced with more seating space. Grandma always hosted holidays at her house and tables with pie, cakes, and savory dishes soon filled that sunroom. More grandchildren came and the sunroom eventually filled with cabbage patch dolls, books, tonka trucks, and skateboards. The occasional plant adorned the writing desk by the door. Flowers were eventually transported just outside to the front porch. Nonetheless, I’d catch grandma standing at the kitchen entrance of the sunroom in awe, smiling at nothing but the mass of race cars scattered on her shaggy, seafoam-colore rug. She’d dry her hands on her apron and just look around at it all, saying nothing. Gone were the days when she scolded us for not cleaning up our toys. 

Several years passed and the sunroom I once knew became a makeshift bedroom for me and my two children, complete with a tv set, DVD player, and couch that converted to a bed at night. By this point, grandma’s house was a refuge for us after a bad break-up. Grandma was no longer making grandbabies breakfast at the crack of dawn, but was instead sleeping in until nearly 11 AM, slowly dragging herself and her bedroom slippers from her quarters as my cousin Andrea pleaded with her to come and eat. Grandma’s smile would come and go, but her words were less frequent. Her stories from “way back when” were still intact, but she’d began to mistake my young daughter for me. Her place at the dinner table was made by someone else. Her and granddaddy patiently waited at the table while my sister and I served “not quite grandma’s” fried chicken and mac & cheese. And while she usually objected, my sister and I cleared the table and washed the dishes grandma never allowed us to touch before. 

Now that grandma and grandpa are both gone, I miss so many things about them. How grandma made breakfast in the morning, watched the stories at 1PM (with the illustrious John Black, need I say more), kept me and all my siblings in line with only a few words and powerful stares, how she had dinner on the table at the same time every night, and how her and grandpa called me smart when I got the answers right on Jeopardy. But one thing I didn’t notice until I was watering my own plants this morning, was how grandma’s own personal sunroom transformed into a “safe haven” of sorts for all her grandchildren right up under my nose. She gave us everything and kept nothing to herself. Not even her space. Nor her precious memories. 

photos by kate darmody for unsplash


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