The first time I was dropped off at Vavie and Vovo’s house, I cried for an hour. I sat on the kitchen floor and refused to leave no matter how much Vavie tried to coax me to come play.
I thought my mom dropped me off and abandoned me. I didn’t know I was being babysat by my grandparents for the day while she was at work. I was maybe two years old, but Vavie never lets me forget it.
I remember she made me a bowl of oatmeal, and then she turned on “Blue’s Clues,” and I realized, hey, being abandoned isn’t half bad!
My family is from Hanford, and Vavie and Vovo are the epitome of cute old people in a small town. Their house is a little blue cottage-style home, complete with a breakfast nook and a “playroom” for us kids. Much of my childhood was spent in the playroom, playing with my dad’s vintage G.I. Joe doll that was missing an arm and some old Barbie dolls Vavie got for the granddaughters.
There was always a sense of wonder and imagination at my grandparents’ house. As soon as you walk in the door, you’re hit with nostalgia. The kitchen and breakfast nook are to your left, and the washroom is to your right — it used to be my dad’s bedroom. The dining room and living room are past the doorway of the kitchen, with a china cabinet displaying Vavie’s many tea sets and several of Vovo’s wood carvings of birds along the way.
The first door on your right down the hallways is the playroom, with a futon and a twin-sized bed for us kids to sleep on when we spent the night. Further down is Vavie and Vovo’s room, and at the end of the hall is the bathroom.
This is the home where my dad grew up. This is the home where my siblings and I grew up, too.
Every single holiday, birthday, graduation and any other celebration or event you can think of was celebrated at Vavie and Vovo’s house. We’d have barbeques in their backyard, play basketball in the front yard, ride bikes in the driveway and in the half-acre behind their house.
My cousins, siblings and I made our own fun. We’d run around, pretend we were superheroes or the Rugrats or pretty much any other group of characters from whatever TV show or book we were obsessed with at the time.
Vavie used to host an annual tea party for her granddaughters. My cousins, sisters and I would dress up fancy and pick out a tea set, and Vavie would make deviled eggs and finger sandwiches for us. We would come up with fake names and speak in British accents for an afternoon.
Some of the happiest and most fun moments of my childhood took place at Vavie’s house. It felt like being transported into the past when you walk in the door, and I think that made us kids find more creative ways to have fun.
As I get older, things have changed at the little blue cottage. The kitchen got a new paint job, and the bathroom has been redecorated a few times. The chicken coop is no longer in the half-acre behind the house, and our bikes have since been donated for someone else to ride. The trees in the front yard have been cut down so Vovo doesn’t have to worry about pruning them, and Milky — Vavie’s evil cat — and Bootsy — Vovo’s angelic cat — have both passed.
My siblings and I are moving on with our lives. We aren’t the same little kids who could run around the yard all day long and not break a sweat. We don’t pick the poppies outside or shell almonds in Vovo’s workshop. And it breaks a little piece of my heart knowing that I don’t get to see Vavie and Vovo whenever I want to anymore. We’re all getting older, but they are, too.
I call Vavie as often as I can to talk with her on the phone. She loves catching up, even if it’s not in person. And she tells me about my cousin’s kids. Lily is 4 years old, and Daisy is 2. Now, they come over to Vavie and Vovo. They are the ones who go into the playroom and bring dolls to life with their own imagination. They run around and make their own fun in the little house that shaped us all.
We have family get-togethers, and even if they aren’t at Vavie and Vovo’s, everyone is still there — now with spouses and children of their own. My mom still brings bubbles for the children to play with, and Vavie comes over and tells me the latest news in her life.
There are times when I’ll go to the little blue house, and the road feels shorter than it used to. Vovo’s hand-carved birdhouses are outside, and as I pull up, Vavie comes out to let us inside. A Campbell’s soup ad is framed in the doorway, the same ad I reread over and over as a kid.
It’s comforting to know that not everything is changing as I get older. I go to Vavie and Vovo’s house, and it still has the nostalgic feeling of home. It smells like coffee, bread and oranges, like safety, memories and love.
I know that no matter how old I get, the little blue cottage will always be there. Vavie and Vovo will always feel like home.