From where I’m standing, there are two schools of thought on what to do with a place, a home, when one of the people who loved it and lived within its walls perishes. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that part of what you once loved about the home would leave along with the departed, causing the remaining inhabitant(s) to become prisoners of their own surroundings. But it’s also true that you might love the place all the more for the memories it stirs, deriving comfort and familiarity. Such is the paradox of a home in mourning. It remains partly a tribute to the person who loved it and partly haunted by their absence. How much of one or the other tugs at the subconscious is what inevitably drives us to either stay submerged in the memory or move forward its shadow.
To summarize my metaphorical ramblings, I’m grieving the loss of my grandparents’ house. Since my grandmother, Oma, died in 2009, my grandfather, Papa, has been diligently keeping the house they shared together in working order. I wouldn’t say he’s been struggling with the upkeep, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A few days ago, he finally moved out—putting the only house I’ve known he and Oma to call home, on the market for the highest bidder.
It’s a beauty of a house, a grand old thing they built together in the Texas hill country before I was born. Allegedly they traveled the country in an RV for some undetermined but lengthy amount of time before deciding there was no better place on this planet to retire than the outskirts of New Braunfels, Texas. They bought two adjacent lots and planted their house in the middle of a grove of native trees. As a kid, it was an epic destination, as every proper grandparent house ought to be. To begin with, the house served as the setting in which I was permitted to inhale more homemade cookies than I was ever allowed at home. Then there was the hearth, which instead of a traditional fireplace, was actually an elevated stone platform that played host to a shiny blue franklin stove. But this unconventional setup turned out to be the ideal location for after dinner “talent” shows where I forced my doting family to sit through dramatic readings of my favorite children’s books or bizarre musical numbers I had written 15 minutes prior to showtime. Bro’s and my original performance of Mexican Date, I’m told was a big hit. But cookies and attention-seeking behavior aside, the house is where I did my bonding with Oma. That’s where we cooked together and picked peaches. We rocked back and forth on the porch together, admiring the rolling grass like you’d admire waves from the deck of a ship. She told me stories and in turn I’m sure I provided an endless supply of laughter and general adorableness. It’s where I had the privilege to truly know my only living biological grandparent. After Oma died, the house is where I took Heath to engage in philosophical debates with Papa that would start around 5, cocktail hour, and carry on well into the night. The routine was fairly standard—cocktails at 5, dinner around 6:30, mind-spinning conversation until 9 and then sherry on the porch; but while predictable, dinners at Papa’s house were nonetheless looked forward to with monumental anticipation. Two weeks ago, Heath and I had our last-ever cocktail hour in the most consistent house of my childhood, and it’s not an easy experience to swallow.
The reasons for Papa relinquishing control of the house are fairly practical. It’s a lot of upkeep for one person, and while New Braunfels has grown exponentially from the time he and Oma first settled in, it’s a bit of a drive from the town center. And he’s lonely, I would be too. And living that far, that isolated from human interaction was wearing on him. He traded drinking sherry alone for the opportunity to dine with friends in a growing retirement community. I’m glad he knows what he wants, and that at 88 he doesn’t think he’s too old to go after it. I admire that. And if I chose that path for myself, I would want my grandkids, hell, everyone, to be happy for me.
But I’m still a little heartbroken. Damn those childhood houses and their emotional hooks.
The philosophical debates on exestentialism and excessive wine drinking will continue, however; even if the venue has changed. And that is something I can cheers to.
When UT scored their first touchdown against OU yesterday, it was followed by the obligatory high fives and high pitched WHOOs customary of the rare successful Longhorn play for points. And as also is customary for those occasions when he is not in the room during sporting events, I reached for my phone to text Bro with an all caps “HOOK EM!”
Wait….that’s right…He’s at bootcamp, unreachable by phone or text or email or carrier pigeon. How odd to think he might not even know that UT won yesterday.
My one and only sibling, Tyler “Bro” Wilkinson, left for Great Lakes, Illinois last Tuesday to begin a four-year stint with the United States Navy. During the 6 months he lived in our guest bedroom, I might have welcomed a prolonged absence by the loveably oblivious, workout buff and football addict. But now that the days of living within two miles of my childhood partner in crime are essentially over, I’m realizing how much I’m gonna miss that dude, well most of him—not so much his unexpected pop-ins to the house in the middle of the week without a heads-up phone call. In fact, the newfound privacy and unfettered access to our own washing machine will actually be a treat. And I definitely won’t miss his aggressive defeatist attitude during the second half of Cowboys games. No, those 45 minutes of violent pacing and hair pulling will be a void I welcome.
What I will miss are my regular bouts with his sweet disposition, trusting nature and general gooberishness. It’s not often I would hang out with Bro and he wouldn’t say or do something to cause my head to shake in affectionate befuddlement. And it’s a rare human who can match my zeal for dance parties and appreciation of terrible puns. He’s the only person in the world who knows what it’s like to have our mom for a mom, our dad for a dad, who knows what it means to come from the family we came from. For the first time, I’m realizing I won’t have my little Bro around to come over and just generally “get it.” That’s new territory that will take some time to get use to.
Bro has always wanted to be a hero, and the military serves as an adequate scratch to that itch. He’ll be good at it. He’s disciplined and he’s easily content in most situations. He’s regimented and committed and loyal, and this experience will be good for him, but I wouldn’t be a good big sister if I didn’t believe that as good as the Navy will be for him, he’ll be even better for the Navy.
Either way, it’s a bummer not to have him around, and we’ll drink a beer in his honor during the Cowboys game tonight.
We’re celebrating mother’s day a smidge early at the doodle house. After all, why would we wait until Sunday to celebrate when Friday is everyone’s favorite day of the week anyway? Our thoughts exactly.
Here’s a photographic tribute to our wonderful moms. The women who both changed our diapers and watched us graduate from college, and in between taught us right from wrong, read with us, cooked for us, cheered for us, cryed with us and loved us unconditionally. A blog post hardly seems a proper platform to begin to show our gratitude for all your years of selfless giving and affection, but we want you to know we love you back. Thanks Joy and Gretchen for being the best moms in the world.
Merry holidays from the doodle fam! It’s been a rather unconventional Christmas this year for Heath and me—partly because we hosted the family Christmas celebrations for the first time, partly because we celebrated on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and MOSTLY because today we take off for our two-week vacation in India! New posts will be absent from the DH blog for the next two weeks, but I’m hoping to come roaring back with hundreds of pictures and tales of our travels when we return.
Until then, enjoy your friends and family as we have enjoyed ours this holiday!
It’s rare that I would write 2 wedding-related posts in a week, but our lives have been pretty matrimonial as of late. So far this year we have been invited to:
-4 weddings (with 3 more still to come)
-6 wedding showers
-4 bachelorette parties.
Apparently ’tis the season. This weekend at least was the last of our Denton weddings until September, but we went out with a bang–celebrating the union of Ryan to Holly, Heath’s youngest sister.
Family weddings are usually special in their own merit, but this one was particularly meaningful because we both had a part in it: Heath walked the bride down the aisle and I got yet another chance to play photographer. Hooray for being useful!
We were thrilled to send Ryan and Holly off in style, but I’m definitely looking forward to a few weekends spent at home with the doodles rather than traveling up and down the I-35 corridor.
Congrats to Ryan and Holly! Thanks for letting my camera crash your big day!
As kiddos, visits to the grandparents’ house were always looked forward to with great anticipation. Like most youngsters, I relished the time I had to spend with my grandparents because, of course as grand parents do, they doted on me incessantly and spoiled me rotten with baked goods and mouthwatering, artery clogging four course meals. Getting there was half the fun too. My Oma and Papa lived 5 hours South of us on the freeway–a trip that was actually more like 12 hours once you factor in a stop at the outlet mall for an obligatory road trip souvenir and a not-so-speedy run to the Czech Stop to purchase more fruit and cream cheese kolaches than should ever be consumed during a lifetime. But sweets and treats aside, I still loved visiting their home in the Texas Hill Country.
As a chubby tot I loved their home for very different reasons than I do now. A pier and beam craftsman with a giant wrap around porch, being on the deck at Oma and Papa’s felt like being a passenger on a cruise line sailing over a sea of wildflowers. Few sensations beat the one that came with dangling my little legs over the side of the porch while looking over blue bonnets and pear trees and making a mess of my mango juice and Sloppy Joe. Yes, as a kid (and maybe a little bit as an adult too), that was pretty much as good as it got.
Inside was great too. A Franklin stove in the living room set inside a special elevated stone nook proved to be a great stage on which to perform scenes from my favorite storybooks for the family after dinner. A house that features spectacular views of nature and spectacular views of me? Of course I loved it.
But today I love the house for more reasons than its potential to be a platform for post-dinner performances. It’s the house my grandparents built and lived in together for nearly 25 years, and where my grandmother said she was happiest. After touring the country for months in an RV, they reached the Texas Hill Country and could think of no better place to spend their retirement together than in the rolling green hills in the New Braunfels country side. They designed and built the home from the ground up, focusing incredible detail on every aspect from the gingerbread trim on the exterior to the stain on the kitchen cabinets. They did it together and ended up with a beautiful home that acted as the perfect setting to display their love of art, enable their love of food, drink and entertaining, and enjoy their love for each other for the last years of my grandmother’s life.
So while I’ll always love rocking on the porch and looking over wildlife–now with a glass of wine rather than a plate of sandwich–I think even more I’ll love the way the house makes me and anyone who enters it feel. It’s warm and stylish and loved to its bones. It smells like fresh bread and always sings of happiness.
For 21 years now Austin’s most rad radio station, 93.3 KGSR, has been putting on a great little diddy called Blues on the Green. It’s a super cool, super free, super Austin concert taking place every Wednesday night during the summer months. It sounds too good to be true and embarrassingly, I had never made it out to the free, fun-filled music fest till yesterday.
I picked the right time to go. A rare summertime rain visited Austin the day before the concert and painted Zilker Park with vibrant shades of green–without which it would have been “Blues on the Brown.” But what’s even better is that the rain cooled the park down to a chilly 80 degrees. The weather was great and people across the city showed up by the hundreds to lounge on the lawn and jam along with The Bright Light Social Hour.
Other things to know about Blues on the Green if, like me, you are a festival novice:
*Bring your own beer. A newbie to B on the G, I didn’t know how strict the rule-making people would be when it came to things like bringing in your own coolers of adult beverages. Officially you’re allowed to bring a cooler to the park, but in compliance with city codes, alcoholic beverages are banned. No one seemed to be following the latter part of that rule and enjoyed their koozie clad beers with no fear being “busted.” Do the right thing, though, and leave the glass bottles at home. Lots of tots run around the park barefoot during the performances and cutting up their innocent feet with the glass of poisonous alcoholic beverages is a bit grinch-like.
*Bring your own kids. Despite aforementioned bullet point, this is definitely a kid-friendly event and will be one of those things that childhood memories are made of. So pack the stroller and the diaper bag and take the kiddos some place where they can run around wild outside and you can take a much needed break on the lawn.
*Bring your dog. The dog watching at Zilker is top notch. Officially the rules are “on leash only” but quite a few folk will unhitch their well-behaved canines during the show.
Don’t be like me, make Blues on the Green part of your summertime routine.*
*Rhyme not intended, but still awesome.
I love it when people allow me to experiment on them with my photography. My most recent victim was one Brady Beavers, also known as Heath’s soon-to-be-graduated cousin. Here are a few shots I took this weekend to commemorate this fella’s special accomplishment. He was a great sport!
That one seemed very classic of both Mark and Brady.
There’s always time to be silly.
Congratulations Brady. You’ll be awesome.
This weekend we headed to Nacogdoches, home of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, to support Heath’s sister Megan as she performed in her senior recital. A skilled flautist, Megan put on quite a show for Heath, myself and more than a dozen other friends and family members that had us tapping our toes in rhythm and sighing in disbelief at both her stamina and melody making abilities. Job well done, Megan.
After being thoroughly entertained and blown away by Nacogdoches’ most skilled musician, we took a walk around campus to experience a day in the life of a Lumberjack.
Heath really liked the trees.
It turns out there is no such thing as too much purple at SFA.
After the recital comes the heart of any family gathering—in this case, a hearty dinner at Clear Springs Cafe.
…Followed the next day by a stroll with Gramps and Elouise at The Azalea Gardens.
The walk included a requisite tree ring counting, obviously. (This is Heath and Gramps we are talking about.)
As all adventures tend to do, this one ended too soon but was filled with fun and family and afforded us a much needed change of pace from our usual Austin antics.
My favorite photos from Joy and Adam’s wedding day.