Grandma’s house is the second one from the corner. It’s on Adams Street, which is paved with bricks, located in a small Oklahoma town called Purcell. The town dates to 1887, the year after my grandmother was born. It sits on a bluff overlooking the South Canadian River. Oklahoma was still Indian Territory then.
Grandma was born in Kentucky. She came to Oklahoma before it became a state. I was born in Purcell. The clinic where that event occurred is now the McClain County Historical Museum.
Though I call the one-story house on Adams Street Grandma’s house, it’s not the same.
Grandma died nearly 50 years ago. I haven’t seen the interior of the house since then, but the exterior looks very different. The detached garage is gone and the mimosa trees that graced the yard have disappeared as well.
The water tower gone, too. That landmark was across the alley from Grandma’s house. It loomed over town, visible from the highways that led into Purcell. In the years I visited this house, it was a source of temptation to several older male cousins determined to climb the structure.
I used to climb the trees in Grandma’s yard, scrambling into the higher branches, or all the way to the roof of the garage. The front porch, which had a swing, was another temptation. We used to jump off it. That’s how my brother broke his leg.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time at Grandma’s house. I remember Sunday dinners around the big table in the dining room. After dinner, my cousins and I would walk downtown. On Main Street, also paved with bricks, was the movie theater owned by my aunt and uncle. It was quite a treat for us to help out, taking tickets and selling popcorn.
Purcell has seen many changes since Grandma died. The swimming pool at the top of Red Hill is gone and there’s a new pool somewhere else in town. The house two doors down from Grandma, where a woman known as Miss Bessie raised chickens, no longer has a coop in the backyard.
The Canadian Theater, where I saw lots of movies as a youngster, closed after my uncle and aunt retired. It was an antique mall for a time. Now it’s empty and for sale. The Sky Vue Drive-In, where my uncle hoisted huge reels onto the projector, is completely gone, another business built on the land that was once covered with speakers.
When I visit Purcell, which isn’t often these days, I drive around town looking at various houses once occupied by aunts and uncles, and Grandma’s house, of course. I stop at a florist shop and buy a rose to put on her grave in the family plot in a hillside cemetery.
My recent visit was an informal family reunion, a gathering of relatives at a cousin’s house north of town. A potluck, flavored with lots of conversation, and plenty of food, including homemade ice cream. As we ate, we talked about those summers in Grandma’s backyard, with the uncles cranking the handle on the ice cream freezer.
And Grandma’s blackberry cobbler. Nothing in the world tasted like Grandma’s blackberry cobbler, and probably never will again, even if I roll out a crust and fill it with blackberries myself. I plan to do that sometime this summer.
Grandma’s house isn’t the same. She’s gone, visible now only in photographs.
But the memories remain. Oh, what memories they are.