Growing up, across the street was a pretty magical place. It was filled with sweet treats, an enchanted garden, little gnomes and frogs that guarded the garden, flowers you could eat and others you could snap, the best climbing tree ever, and two of the most amazing people I have had the privilege of knowing.
Adam and I spent our summers across the street… at John and Marilynn’s. He was a retired judge and naval officer. She was a retired court clerk who absolutely adored him. Since they married later in life, she had no biological children, and John’s kids and grandkids were all grown up (he had been widowed). When I was two, I because their ‘adopted’ granddaughter, and Adam joined the club a couple years later when he entered the world.
It was all the things a kid could hope for. More sweets than Mom ever knew about, being taken out to cool restaurants, presents on literally every holiday… major or minor! They were the perfect grandparents, and they were just across the street. I used to spend hours with Marilynn early in the morning sipping tea and talking. (Yeah, I know – I was actually a morning person at one point! Who knew?)
What added even more to their mystic was that they were snowbirds, and every winter they flew off to Florida. And they lived near Disney World! Could it get any better to a kid?
So one year, we take a family vacation to Florida over Christmas break. I was thrilled. I’d never been to Florida, and we were going to get to see John and Marilynn in the winter… and all the coolest parks were just down the road. So off we went, in the burgundy boat, I mean Buick. We visited the beach, and Sea World, and Busch Gardens… but no Disney. I begged and pleaded… but no Disney. But I digress, this isn’t about my denied dream of Disney.
John and Marilynn were the perfect grandparents, even if they weren’t biological. And I remember the day that I got the news that John passed. It wasn’t a surprise, he was 90, and in failing health. It was in the winter, so a service was held there, but the real funeral happened months later when Marilynn came back to Illinois. But what I didn’t realize until I saw her, was that she died inside the day that she lost John. It was only months later when we found out that she had cancer. And with her beloved John gone, she didn’t fight – she was ready to see him in heaven.
I will always remember that funeral. It was one of the first where I lost someone so close. I then remember worrying about the house. Who would move in? It couldn’t just be anyone, because no one would take care of it like she could. Her garden was far too precious for just anyone. Thankfully, John’s grandson and his family bought the house. They already owned one outside of town, but with their boys in school this would be convenient. I was relieved – because they would treat the house right. The house that I spent long summer days running in and out of.
But a few days ago, I found out that they are selling the house. Kim was cleaning out the basement and found a ladder that Adam and I painted with Marilynn – it was our tree ladder, to help us climb until we grew taller. I haven’t seen that ladder for years, probably decades, but I can remember the day we painted it red and black school colors. Mom has it safely tucked away in our garage; it is far too precious to just throw out.
And though it’s been years now, I find that a piece of me mourns that the house will now be owned by strangers. I just hope they are good neighbors. The kind that are nice to those around them, that invite them over for tea, and love having kids playing in the yard. Because those are the only kind of neighbors that could do that house justice by the people I loved that lived there once… across the street.