Monthly Archives: March 2012

Poppy’s House

Sundays, when I was growing up, meant visiting and having dinner at my grandfather’s house. My sister and I called him ‘Poppy’. When my sister was quite young she couldn’t pronounce ‘grandpa’ so she said ‘Poppy’ and the name stuck. Even though it has been over three decades, I can remember Poppy’s house as if I was there last Sunday.

The red brick colonial house sat on a street lined with old oak trees; in the middle of a quite, quaint neighborhood in southwest Detroit. Ten wide steps led up to a long porch painted gunship gray. The front door was oak with a large, oval-shaped, leaded-glass window in the center. Walking through the doorway, you were greeted with an oak paneled staircase with a chunky oak banister and stairs leading to the bathroom and three bedrooms on the second floor. The smell of cherry pipe tobacco was mingling with the aroma of the chicken roasting in the oven and the rich buttery rice pilaf simmering on the stove; in the kitchen where I could always find my grandma.

In the living room was Poppy’s chair with wooden arms and red fabric, worn from the years. Next to the chair was a glass ashtray on a two-foot-high metal pedestal. On the far wall was a brown brick fireplace with a wooden mantle and recessed shelf. On the shelf was a Zippo lighter, cigar box, a canister filled with cherry pipe tobacco and a brass-and-wood pipe holder. In the holder, was a silver pipe cleaning tool and two pipes. The bowl of one pipe was white with a carving of a lion’s head on it. The other pipe was dark brown with a much worn mouthpiece. To the right of the fireplace was a steam heat register, painted the same color as the porch.

Beautiful oak molding framed the archway which led to the dining room, where there was a large stained-glass window above the china cabinet. Behind the beveled-glass doors of the china cabinet sat a half-dozen china tea cups, each with a different floral design, and a crystal bowl filled with butterscotch candies. On the opposite wall was a large rectangular gold-tone frame with a oval opening and a black and white photograph of Poppy in his World War I uniform.

On the long dining table was a white laced tablecloth with the Sunday-best china and silverware. A large bowl of lettuce, tomatoes and onions tossed with oil and vinegar was placed next to a small crystal bowl of tart pickeled cauliflower, carrots, celery, and green tomatoes. The empty space on the table waited patiently for the roasted chicken and rice pilaf to join in.

After dinner, coming from the living room were the sounds of Poppy banging his pipe against the ashtray to remove the old tobacco, then the crinkling of the tobacco pouch to refill the pipe, and the distinctive click and smell of the Zippo lighter igniting. Then, the popping and clicking of the tubes in the television sounded as it warmed up just in time to hear Sonny Eliot give the weather report.

For many years now, my grandparents have been spending Sunday dinners with Jesus. Time has taken it’s toll on the house and the street is not as quaint as it was when I was younger. I will always remember Sundays at Poppy’s house consisting simply of dinner and television, but memories so sweet they will stay with me for a lifetime.

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