Sunday, September 3, 2006


My grandpa drove a pink Cadillac. It wasn't an obvious, garish pink, but more subtle...close to the flat off-white paint they used on cars before the 70s. He must have custom-ordered it, since I can't imagine this color being one of the standard offerings. What I do know is that he did it for my grandma. Her favorite color was pink.

Grandpa made other bold gestures (or sacrifices, I'm not sure which) for my grandma. The family moved out of the city and bought some property near Normandy Park, where Grandpa designed and built a pink house. It was similar to the pink you've seen on those houses built on the hillsides along the Ligurian coast. You know the, mauve, yellow, orange buildings all jammed in together.

Anyway, Grandpa's house was a fascinating place. From the outside I'd say it was your somewhat average (albeit pink) American Colonial style, but inside it included some interesting architectural touches. The most interesting of these was the two separate 2nd floors off the dining room.

If you sat in the dining room, you'd see five separate entryways. The first two were obvious: a few steps down led you to the living room, and through a short wide hallway you'd find the kitchen. On the other side of the dining room was another few stairs going down to the hallway where my Grandparents' bedroom and bath were situated. Then there were two closed doors. Behind the first, in the corner, was a narrow dark staircase that bent around to the right. Once at the top you'd see two dark attic-y bedrooms. These rooms belonged to my dad and his brothers when they were kids, though as I remember it, these rooms were used for storage in later years. Lots of dusty, cobwebby storage.

The other closed doors in the dining room were french-style with white-painted wooden blinds. Open these and you'd see a short but steep and wide set of stairs up to a landing, where an upright piano stood. The stairs turned and continued a few steps more. The room at the top was well lit by the large windows on one side. My grandma's collection of glass bottles sat on the window sills, giving the room flecks of blue, green and other colors. I think there was a small desk and bookshelves on one side, and lacey pillows and quilts lay on some kind of settee on the other. Built-in wall shelves held books and more collectibles: ceramics, figurines, glassware. Continuing down a hallway you'd find a well-lit bathroom and another bedroom. I think this space was especially used by my grandma.

Off the kitchen, down two stairs and through a darkish laundry room lay the pool room. It was a funny rectangular room that held the pool table and not much else. There was just enough room to play pool.

My grandma loved roses, and planted scores which outlined the yard in front of the house. Beyond that was another yard, a square field where we used to throw lawn darts. Beyond this was the shuffle board, the big brick fireplace and the beach house. We'd stay in the beach house sometimes, and my mom would attempt (and likely succeed, though I don't remember) to cook on the ancient stove...the type where you'd have to light an actual fire under the cast-iron burners.

My grandparents died when I was 12. My grandmother had a stroke in the mid-70s, resulting in full-blown dementia for the last 10 years of her life. When my grandma died, my grandpa couldn't live without her, even though she didn't even recognize him in the final years. He died a month later. He just wasn't interested in being without her.

My dad and his siblings sold the pink house and Cadillac sometime after Grandpa's death. By that time, the Cadillac probably went to the wrecking yard, and the house met a similar fate a few years later. You see, my grandpa was a civil engineer, not an architect. That funny pink house really wasn't built well, or on ground that made for a firm foundation. It was used as a rental for awhile, and then some subsequent owners tore it down.

Shortly after I met Jana in college, I mentioned something about my Grandpa's pink house. It turns out she remembered it well as it marked the spot of her Dad's favorite fishing hole in the Sound.

A couple of years ago, Desiree and I drove down the swichback road that led to my grandparents' old property. I knew the house would be gone, but I just had to see what was there in its place. It seems the new owner had combined my grandparents' property with the adjacent lot, and built a behemoth with a five-car garage. The landscaping around the house was all lawn. It looked weird and sterile, and bore no resemblance to the beautiful and quirky place I remember.

I sometimes wonder if my interest in archtecture comes from my grandpa. If I were to design a house, I would want to include some oddities like my grandpa did. Who knows, maybe I would even paint it a subtle shade of pink in Grandma's honor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aww your grandpa sounds cool. So does the pink house. I wish I could have gone inside it instead of just fishing out front.